Mel Gibson in the Edge of DarknessThomas Craven’s story–chasing down his daughter, Emma Craven’s (played by newcomer Bojana Novacovic), killers–was a highly popular 6-part series in the UK in 1985: It’s 15th on the British Film institute’s Top 100 TV list. It has been updated a lot to take note of domestic and international tensions, the aura of secrecy over weapons manufacture and control, terrorism, secret government installations, nefarious black ops, and Gibson as angry avenger on the learning curve of a daughter he evidently hardly knew. It is a thriller set at the intersection of big business and oceanic politicking.

Mel Gibson is no longer the beautiful, mentally slow lad of TIM (Australia, 1979): He’s been away from the silver screen for seven lean years, getting arrested on DWIs and directing some mean-spirited agit-prop religious indictments and the like. As a colleague remarked, He hasn’t aged all that well. We no longer swoon at his visage, and maybe that means we concentrate more on the scripts. His return consists of a dollop of the gripping Liam Neeson thriller, TAKEN (2008) aka a vigilante-pursuing the murderers of his daughter under the misapprehension that her bullet was meant for him, cynical corporate skullduggery a la Russell Crowe in THE INSIDER (1999), plus a rad or two of Merrill Streep and Cher in SILKWOOD (1983). And a dash of the LETHAL WEAPON franchise (1987-1098) whacko residuum.

The four don’t quite intersect. Widowed Boston homicide vet Craven (Gibson) finds the bloody trail of his daughter's murderers leads to a hush-hush defense-industry combine, Northmoor, where she was an intern, supposedly. During the brief few minutes where she is still talking, she neither convinces that she’s an MITnuclear physicist, nor the firebrand integrity-beseiged fighter we are led to see as the plot unspools. We fix on the truly scary, unexplained character of Ray Winstone (who appears in the 44-INCH CHEST ughie indie) playing a mercenary (or magic messenger) we don’t know how to classify, Jedburgh. We see Danny Huston’s Bennett, head of Northmoor, and something immediately snaps into place if you are at all movie-sophisticated: Baddie alert! While a solid character actor, oleaginous Huston never appears as the good guy, so casting him is a menu-card for predictable later evil…. And sure enough.

In Martin Campbell's reworking of the hot British miniseries, Craven’s take-no-prisoners flinty, blind-siding sock ‘em-ups and Danny Huston's serpentine mystery sandwich don’t particularly marry well, some of the unstitched elements being Winstone's pop-up messianic Judgment man. Also not jibing is Emma’s oddly vicious boyfriend and his nasty proclivity to attack visitors related to his now-dead gal-pal. Why would a gorgeous, talented, PhD physicist go for such a creepy unhinged nutjob? How can every meeting Craven has with every friend of his daughter be surveilled, no matter how far out in nowhereland? We never actually see or hear why the film is titled EDGE OF DARKNESS—guess it was somewhere in the TV series, but they forgot to put it back into the update.

And why would a character as insanely intrepid as Gibson’s (and his daughter) be named “craven,” anyway? A jejune linguistic joke?

The infra-dig sarcasm between Huston and Denis O'Hare (as a gummint co-conspirator) is pleasantly arch, and the cast enjoys their twirling-mustaches oily bought men, whether Boston Brahmin statesman or guilty-from-the-gut killer.

Though derivative, it does offer more meat for the lions than many a studio flick, with the lined, gravelly steeliness of its careworn star not ineffective, and not unmatched to a chronicle of a policeman parent with nothing to lose, who apparently cathects for his anxious, angry, sleepless, spoiling-for-a-broiling audience.





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