Movie Review: Edge of Darkness- A Predictable Yet Darkly Intriguing Tale of Vengeance

Vengeance has become quite a mainstream topic in Hollywood ever since the 90s and after viewing Martin Campbell’s new film Edge of Darkness it seems as though the genre has developed a predictable form if not an easily guessable climax. But who better to star in such a familiar setting than Mel Gibson famous for delivering justice to those who deserve it in such great violence pieces as Mad Max, Payback, and The Patriot. Unfortunately the formula for vengeance moves against this adaptation of a British series despite the clever dialogue, good acting, and fine tuned direction because it has been overly done and done much better in previous attempts even in recent memory. Most people who happen to still be fans of Mr. Gibson will probably flock to see his return to the screen after 7 years of absence and it appears he hasn’t lost his touch for delivery. What seems to be lost is a charm and wit that made Mel Gibson a unique action star amidst so many leaving that acting elegance on the screen to Ray Winstone who has the most interesting character in the entire film. Despite all of its good qualities Edge of Darkness never rises above the formulaic expectations from the vengeance genre and becomes just another film that we are all too familiar with guessing each and every plot twist long before they come about. Luckily the film has some well developed characters and intriguing dialogue to tug it along instead of being a completely bland attempt at a tale of fatherly vengeance.

Most vengeance tales must establish the relationship that must be avenged and Edge of Darkness doesn’t necessarily deviate from structure introducing us to our protagonist Thomas Craven, a tired but seemingly pleasant cop, and the relationship he has with his daughter through video footage, memory, and imaginary sequences. Something is immediately amiss as Thomas and his daughter Emma head home because it appears Emma is quite sick but is trying to hide it from her father. As the sickness becomes more evident to her Dad Emma finally begins to reveal that there is something she should have told her father when she first saw him but is unfortunately shot by a shotgun as they are heading out to go to the hospital. Believing he was the intended victim of the murder Thomas goes into a state of emotional imbalance or walks the edge of darkness if you will as he attempts to figure out who tried to kill him. This eventually leads to a string of complexities that unveil corporate and government corruption that seems almost too out there to believe and unfortunately the film allows it all to unfold in a mindless presentation that is typical of Hollywood films. Some people will get a good laugh that the Senator involved in this obvious cover up of corporate corruption is, of course, a Republican yet the state of Massachusetts, where this entire story takes place in, hasn’t had a Republican senator in over 40 years. But don’t let facts get in the way of a typical Hollywood film lambasting greedy corporations and outrageous government conspiracy. Despite all the obvious clichés the film balances the convoluted story just fine thanks to co-screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) who accounts for well developed characters through dialogue and a somewhat believable progression.

As vengeance stories unfold there tends to be some ridiculous moments that progress the film’s road blocks to figuring out the final resolution and Edge of Darkness is no different. One such event is a car running into a woman coming out of a car on the side of the road and while it makes for a shocking moment one must immediately contemplate how the driver timed the hit so well with such effect. This is the problem with Martin Campbell’s adaptation of the 1980s British crime series because everything within the film becomes so familiar in its presentation and formula that it actually moves against the film as a whole. The action is quick and gruesome, which shocks the audience into attention but the story doesn’t particularly stray into the unknown. Especially when you hire Danny Huston in a film as the villain his presence isn’t mysterious, much like his father John Huston. Mysteries have become a bit cliché as of late or it seems the forum has exhausted all originality though that really shouldn’t be the case. Edge of Darkness is just another one of those films that can be plotted in the first 10 minutes but in its favor it doesn’t try to be anything different. The presentation is familiar but it isn’t pretentious making an average but well achieved vengeance thriller.

Anyone doubting Gibson’s abilities to carry a film will be ashamed for thinking so after he carries himself believably around each scene in Edge of Darkness. He embodies a cop of the middle class Boston level in speech and demeanor so well you’d think this Australian born actor was actually from Massachusetts. Aside from Gibson this film is well cast all the way from the short appearance from the daughter to Ray Winstone’s philosophical assassin. Winstone really does make every picture he’s in better; his presence and dialect are quite intriguing if not unique making memorable performances in whichever film he’s in including Sexy Beast and The Departed. Winstone and Danny Huston have the best dialogue throughout the script and luckily both of them aren’t even in a single scene together, making the film’s sequences more interesting amidst the plot’s familiarity. Acting is certainly not a weakness to this film and Martin Campbell utilizes his James Bond experience from Casino Royale and Goldeneye and guides this mystery thriller to an enjoyable conclusion if not specifically original.

Surprisingly Edge of Darkness as an adaptation from the 80s British crime series doesn’t turn out as a better film at the hands of Martin Campbell who directed the original TV series. This mystery thriller certainly has no mystery since it’s pretty obvious where the film is going pretty much from the very beginning. However, the intriguing dialogue and well acted segments make for an enjoyable theater experience if not an original one. Those who were Gibson fans from Payback or The Road Warrior will be glad to see a similar performance of vengeance here that is convincing and multi-faceted showing that Gibson can still act despite his absence in front of the camera. Edge of Darkness is probably a better film to experience this January than countless others including its opening weekend rival When in Rome, which reeks of utter ridiculousness and too much cliché.

Grade: C+

One Response to “Movie Review: Edge of Darkness- A Predictable Yet Darkly Intriguing Tale of Vengeance”
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