DAVE DAVIES, host:
After a long absence, Mel Gibson returns to the screen as an actor in the new film, Edge Of Darkness. Its a conspiracy thriller in which a Boston police detective sets out to solve his daughters murder. The film is co-written by William Monahan who wrote, The Departed and directed by Martin Campbell, who cast Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale.
Film critic David Edelstein has this review.
DAVID EDELSTEIN: Here is Mel Gibson as a Boston police detective, shambling onto the screen in Edge of Darkness for the first time in nearly a decade. And its hard for us, and probably harder for him, to shake off that decades 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 isnt so much wrinkled as creviced. His breeziness is gone. Hes stripped down to pure righteous anger. His rage is never far from the surface.
Gibsons Thomas Craven loses his only daughter early in Edge of Darkness, and thats not a spoiler it fuels everything that follows. The loss is grisly and shocking, and 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. Hes 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, hes 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 hes apt to get mean. He tells the people hes beating up he has nothing left to lose.
The movie has a wild card, Ray Winstone, as some kind of independent contractor and maybe assassin, who for some reason reaches out to Craven instead of rubbing him out. They sit on the bank of Boston Harbor and get personal.
(Soundbite of the movie, Edge Of Darkness)
Mr. MEL GIBSON (Actor): (as Craven) If I was an employee at Northmore, and I wanted to blow the whistle on something, what would I be blowing a whistle on?
Mr. RAY WINSTONE (Actor): (as Jedburgh) Lets take a walk and we can talk about it.
Mr. GIBSON: (as Craven) Uh-huh. Im not walking in the dark with you.
Mr. WINSTONE: (as Jedburgh) Youre a wise man. You're on my side.
Mr. GIBSON: (as Craven) What I saw (unintelligible) whats that like, not being anyone in particular?
Mr. WINSTONE: (as Jedburgh) I dont know what it means to have lost a child but I know what it means never to have had one.
Mr. GIBSON: (as Craven) Yeah, and nobody left to bury you.
EDELSTEIN: You might have been surprised at Gibsons South Boston accent, which takes some getting used to but is less annoying than most of the casts in Mystic River. Hes very good but then hes always been good, and his role in Edge of Darkness isnt 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. Cravens daughters mother is never mentioned, its 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 theyre meant to be real. She has crossed over, as they say, but isnt gone. For all the mysticism and anti-military-industrial-complex speechifying, Edge of Darkness is still your basic meathead revenge picture. On its own debased terms, though, it works like gangbusters. Director Martin Campbell, coming off Casino Royale, has a style thats blunt and bruising. The shootings are what violence mavens call wet that is, splattery.
And every time you see a door or a window youre primed for shotgun blast or explosion, an unbelievably loud one, so youre always on edge. The audience I saw it with went nuts with joy whenever Gibson taunted a bad guy, and hyper nuts when he blew one away. Gibson is a professed Christian with an Old Testament fury or maybe the fury of Revelations, anything for an excuse to not turn the other cheek.
DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.
Coming up, John Powers finds a lot night not to like about Game Change, the gossipy new book about the 2008 presidential campaign.
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