Mad Mel, Approaching The 'Edge Of Darkness' Again

Mel Gibson

The Fury Of Revelation: Mel Gibson plays a police detective out to solve the murder of his only daughter — and unearthing corporate cover-ups and government conspiracies in the process. Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros. Pictures

Edge of Darkness

  • Director: Martin Campbell
  • Genre: Drama, Thriller
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

Rated R: strong bloody violence and language

With: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts

Here's Mel Gibson as a Boston police detective, shambling onto the screen in Edge of Darkness for the first time in nearly a decade — and it's hard for us (and probably harder for him) to shake off that decade's effects.

He became one of the richest men in Hollywood, but also a pariah. He proved as director of The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto to be an amazing — at times visionary — filmmaker, but with an inner life that seemed so primitive and paranoid that his vision bordered on barbaric. The years now show in his face, which isn't so much wrinkled as creviced. His breeziness is gone. He's stripped down to pure righteous anger; his rage is never far from the surface.

Gibson's Thomas Craven loses his only daughter early in Edge of Darkness, and that's not a spoiler — it fuels everything that follows. The loss is grisly and shocking, and it launches the detective on a winding trail that leads to a nuclear-power facility that might or might not have a weapons program and might or might not be connected to shadowy government elements.

Danny Huston plays its head: He's tall and unctuous and crisply tailored, and he carries ghoulish traces of the vampire lord he played in 30 Days of Night. He has a laughably sleek office atop the well-guarded power plant, with huge windows overlooking the Connecticut River.

As everyone keeps telling Craven, he's in over his head. Black sedans with tinted windows follow him as he beats up people his daughter encountered in the last year of her life. He always starts polite, but in the face of evasions he's apt to get mean. He tells the people he's beating up he has nothing left to lose.

The movie's wild card is Ray Winstone as some kind of independent contractor and maybe assassin, who for some reason reaches out to Craven instead of rubbing him out. In one scene, they sit on the bank of Boston Harbor and get personal: "I don't know what it means to have lost a child," Winstone's character says, "but I know what it means never to have had one."

"Yeah," Craven replies. "Ya got no one left to bury ya."

Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone i i

Friend Of The Devil: Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) is a shadowy operative working to keep Gibson's cop away from the truth about his daughter's death. Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros. Pictures
Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone

Friend Of The Devil: Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) is a shadowy operative working to keep Gibson's cop away from the truth about his daughter's death.

Warner Bros. Pictures

You may be surprised at Gibson's South Boston accent, which takes some getting used to but is less annoying than most of the cast's in Mystic River. He's very good — but then he's always been good, and his role in Edge of Darkness isn't so much a departure as a grim distillation of what he did before.

In a score of movies — too many to list — the formula comes down to MMM: Make Mel Mad. Make him say You killed my child. You killed my wife. You killed my child and my wife. You killed my dog.

Here, though, Craven's daughter's mother is never mentioned. It's like a virgin birth — by the dad. Craven has visions of his daughter after she dies, both as a little girl and all grown up. They might be delusional but I think in the end they're meant to be real. She has crossed over, as they say, but isn't gone.

For all the mysticism and anti-military-industrial-complex speechifying, Edge of Darkness is still your basic meathead revenge picture. On it's own debased terms, though, it works like gangbusters.

Director Martin Campbell, coming off Casino Royale, has a style that's blunt and bruising. The shootings are what violence mavens call "wet" — that is, splattery. And every time you see a door or a window you're primed for shotgun blast or explosion. (An unbelievably loud one, so you're always on edge.)

The audience I saw it with went nuts whenever Gibson taunted a bad guy, and hypernuts when he blew one away. Gibson is a professed Christian with an Old Testament fury — or maybe the fury of Revelation: Anything for an excuse to not turn the other cheek.

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