Thursday, January 28, 2010

Edge of Darkness

It seems were are still in the middle of the resurgence of our 70's and 80's action stars. Recent years have seen the return of John Rambo, Rocky Balboa, Indiana Jones, and John McClane (to mixed success); we have even seen Clint Eastwood telling people to get off his lawn. I had thought we were at the end of that, but Mel Gibson (“Lethal Weapon”) still has to have his turn in “Edge of Darkness”

Based on the 1985 BBC series of the same name, “Edge of Darkness” follows Boston Police Detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) as he tries to uncover the truth behind the shooting death of his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic as an adult, and Gabrielle Popa as a child). What first seems like a shooter aiming from him and hitting his daughter instead quickly reveals itself to be a conspiracy with possible connections to national security.

The easiest way to describe “Edge of Darkness” is as a slow-burning tense film punctuated by moments of extreme violence. Gibson's Craven questions suspects and potential witnesses alike as if he were a cross between Columbo and Rorschach (complete with brown raincoat); one moment asking an almost silly question and the next pointing a gun in the person's face, or throwing them across the screen.

I'm going to get my only complaints about the film out of the way first. Mel Gibson's Boston accent is easily the worst thing in this film; I'm from California, so maybe that's how some people from Massachusetts sound, but it felt off to me. The other problem is that, while the movie comes in at just under two hours, it feels a little long. There are one or two scenes in the movie that, while entertaining to watch, don't actually lead to anything story-wise.

The best thing in the film is easily the character of Jedbergh (Ray Winstone: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”). Jedbergh is a shady government fixer who places himself in Craven's path, and whose loyalties are unclear. Winstone plays this stoic, cynical, but darkly comic character perfectly, and lends the movie a level of believability that it might otherwise lack.

Watching this film, I spent most of it waiting for anyone Mel Gibson is talking with the be suddenly and violently killed from off screen. Most of the scenes are shot with a very tight focus on the characters, creating a claustrophobic feeling that adds to the movies tension and preventing you from seeing the death coming up on them just out of view. Will they be shot? Will their car explode? I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting to see if and how any given character will be killed, and just how much information they would be able to pass on to Craven before it would happen.

Overall the movie is fairly predictable; I had the basic mystery solved within the first ten minutes, and then it was just a matter of waiting for the specific characters responsible to actually be introduced, so if you are looking for a mystery to solve, this isn't it. What it is is a fun and intense movie with an ending I found to be very satisfying.

If you're looking for a nice manly violent hard R rated film this weekend, and you've already seen “The Book of Eli” then “Edge of Darkness” is easy to recommend. It's tense, violent, and entertaining. The writing is snappy, giving a number of quotable lines, and, other than Mel Gibson's accent, all the the characters are believable in their roles. While there's nothing original here, this movie does deliver a full serving and suspense and action for your bloodthirsty eyes.

“Edge of Darkness” comes out nationwide on January 29th.

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