Mel Gibson goes a little mad as the scandalous star returns as a no-nonsense avenger in this conflicted suspense drama, a throwback to the paranoid thrillers of the 70s.
A British-backed Edge of Darkness has the once-ranting, very wound-up Gibson trying to reenergize his actorly star status after much passion behind the camera since roles in films like We Were Soldiers and Signs.
In this adaptation of a 1985 BBC small-screen drama also helmed by Martin Campbell, Gibson's Boston homicide detective Tommy Craven reunites with his fidgety college-age daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic of Drag Me To Hell). That's hours before her brutal demise on the family front porch which was thought to have been meant for her dad.
In the screenplay co-written by William Monahan (who brought startling, salty panache to The Departed), the unrelenting Craven finds out more about his daughter (an activist) with cover-ups and collusion as a shadowy agent (wryly done but not long enough) by Ray Winstone (also of The Departed and Beowulf) is tasked with cleaning up the evidence.
Damian Young appears as a U.S. senator (Bay Staters might be irked with what pops up here through the recent election of Scott Brown to fill the vacant seat) and Danny Huston (Wolverine) as the imperious executive of a very modernized Massachusetts-based atomic facility sitting atop a riverside hill. So, the malfeasance extends to the top diffuse the tragedy that is Craven's with the loss of his only child.
But, even with spurts of violence, this Catholicism-infused Darkness lacks a desired dynamic edge, kind of rundown through the grieving Tommy. One can see the outlines of what made the miniseries thrive with more relevance to the Margaret Thatcher era. Campbell has a flair for staging action as evidenced by the recent 007 reboot Casino Royale with some bitter blossoming able to sate more than a few who are gripped in this kind of enigmatic portentiousness. Yet, it does turn out to be more routine (read ultraviolent) than an incisive political meller.
Considering the length of his absence in front of the camera, the chasened, chiseled and grizzled blue-eyed actor acquits himself well in his comeback even with lines like "Fasten your ... seatbelt". Yet, one hoped the backstory and character motivations (starting with Emma who often appears even in old home videos) would have come to the fore as a Beantown road warrior who's slowed down since his Max Rockatansky and Martin Riggs days gives a little of his Payback to a boxed-in British film filmed in the U.S.