Before I saw Edge of Darkness featuring Mel Gibson as a cop, I imagined his character would be a cross between Martin Riggs and William Wallace, like a loose cannon but still articulate in his vengeance. This turned out to be correct except that I should also have added in a healthy dose of Eddie Fitzgerald and Jane Tennison, the main characters in the British police drama series Cracker and Prime Suspect. It makes sense then that this movie was actually based on a BBC teleplay from the mid-1980s.
Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a homicide detective just welcoming his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) back home for a visit. It’s a short-lived one, unfortunately. Soon after she sits down for a quiet meal she becomes violently ill. Craven rushes to get her to the hospital but she doesn’t get very far thanks to a shotgun blast from a masked gunman at the front doorway.
This is the first five minutes of the movie but don’t take this introductory excitement to represent the whole. Most of the rest is a long and drawn out story of how Craven determines culprit and motive in this whodunit in the style of some of the best and most dialogue oriented classic detective stories. That means that the action takes a backseat to a whole lot of talking.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s fantastic. William Monahan, the guy who scribed The Departed, did a fantastic job of creating some compelling characters and some believable dialogue. I think he was trying too hard though. It’s important to use nuance for critical lines and avoid ‘on the nose’ dialogue where a character says exactly what he is thinking. When Gibson comes right out and says, “I’m the guy with nothing to lose,” it sounds forced and clunky, like he’s describing his character to a press junket. He also says something to the effect that he just doesn’t care any more, further driving home the point that he is, in fact, the same old loose cannon that we know and love.
The biggest problem is that it took awhile for me to figure out the nebulous plot. I won’t spoil any of the details here except to say that it gives Danny Huston a chance to play the creepy CEO character, a role he was born for. Needless to say, the plot involves some shady corporate politics and some questionable political figures too, one of which is a guy named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone). I really have no idea who he was, who he was working for or what purpose he served in the movie except that he always seemed to have either a drink or a gun in his hand. Winstone is the go-to actor when you need someone gruff and smug yet somehow amiable. That seems to be the extent of his talents.
Overall it’s a much better movie than I thought it would be, just not as action-intensive. The acting was fine and Gibson seems to pull off an acceptable accent for a Boston ‘cawp,’ but I would have preferred that the plot was a bit more intelligible and not so immersed in darkness.
Edge of Darkness
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, and Danny Huston
Now playing at: Grandin Theatre, North Edmonton Cineplex, and Scotiabank Theatre