Edge of Darkness (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Edge of Darkness (2010)

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ANDREW LIKEMartin Campbell is the go-to director when you want to give your action movie a bit of weight and believability.  He was responsible for giving the James Bond series its appropriate reboot for Pierce Brosnan with Goldeneye, and for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale – two of the best Bond films ever made.  Now he’s helmed Mel Gibson’s comeback vehicle and was unjustly ignored.  Edge of Darkness is completely absurd in points and occasionally loses itself into some boring territory.  But it is consistently entertaining, amazingly well make, and Mel Gibson gives a great performance anchored in a sea of amazing supporting roles.

Edge of Darkness is adapted from Campbell’s own BBC miniseries in 1985.  It also wastes no time in letting you know what kind of movie it will be.  The opening shot is of a peaceful night at a lake, with the moons reflection stretched out over the surface of the water.  Slowly, bodies begin to emerge from the water and float up top.  This is a fantastic and appropriately lurid image to frame the stage for this story of corruption and death.

In the first eight minutes of the film we are introduced to Mel Gibson’s provocatively named Thomas Craven and his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic).  After a brief flashback we see that she’s come back to visit her father and is vomiting suspiciously.  We know she’s not long for this world, and soon she is dead, Craven is looking to figure out what happened to his daughter.

The broad outlines of the story aren’t unfamiliar to anyone that has seen a single revenge picture.  But this goes a lot further than your standard revenge flick.  Edge of Darkness is not content with simple revenge and spins out its run time to include cover ups, treachery, breathy would-be assassins, and sensationally done fight scenes.  I rolled my eyes at a lot of the sequences in the film (as I’m sure some will, reading that description) but I was never bored and constantly entertained.

Campbell knows just how to pitch this story and succeeds in spades.  From the haunting soundtrack, to the rain drenched streets, he evokes the right balance of stylistic noir and melodrama without going overboard in either direction.  The story is difficult to discuss without giving too much, but no matter how insane some of the plot points may be, they are handled with an absolute grounded sense of internal logic and directly follow what came before.  The dialogue is lean and effective, conveying just the appropriate amount of information and nothing more.  We aren’t even treated to the overdone scene where Craven is taken off the case because he’s “too close”.  In the span of forty seconds he makes is point as to why he should investigate, then they let him, in a very brief spasm of logistic perfection.

Then there’s the matter of the acting, and it’s here where Edge of Darkness really bares its teeth.

Mel Gibson is frighteningly effective as Thomas Craven.  He hasn’t done too much acting in recent years (last credited work was in 2003 in The Singing Detective) but he is intense and focused here.  His love for his daughter really shines in some of the flashbacks to when she was younger, and Gibson never loses sight of his character.  Granted, it’s going to be pretty familiar territory to anyone that has seen some of Gibson’s previous films (Craven does come as a cross between his characters in Payback and Ransom) but it’s gripping.  There were scenes that Gibson’s intensity shines through so clearly that I jumped in my seat a bit.

There is a wide range of supporting characters, mostly free from clichés, but of particular note is the stranger played by Ray Winstone.  He is a fantastic actor and doles out his lines with such a breathy relish that it’s hard not to get a taste of the palpable joy that he is feeling with his role in the film.  That role is a bit difficult to discuss without giving away too much, but it’s a tribute to director, actor and screenwriter that they were able to take his character in the direction they did without too much heavy handed idiocy.

Even the action scenes are handled effectively.  There’s a sense that this actually takes place in the real world and not some fantasy land where the hero has limitless stamina and strength.  I was pleased when, after an incredibly brief fight, two of the characters were laying around breathing heavily and trying to get their composure.  This is a film that serves as a response to some of the empty headed films that deal with violence and parental love, and is magnificently effective as a thriller all its own.

I was on the edge trying to decide if I liked Edge of Darkness or not because of some of the more eye rolling  elements.  But they coalesce into an amazingly entertaining and engrossing whole.  There’s hardly a single moment wasted and it’s a shame that it largely went unnoticed in theaters.  This is one of the unsung gems of 2010 - give it a watch while you can.

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Edge of Darkness (2010)

Directed by Martin Campbell.
Written by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell.
Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, and Bojana Novakovic.

Posted by Andrew

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