Mel Gibson returns with one of his finest performances in the gripping yet patchy thriller, Edge of Darkness.
Although the trailers suggest a reprise of the Liam Neeson actioner Taken, nothing could be further from that perception, for while Taken was an (albeit entertaining) testosterone revenge fantasy, Edge of Darkness is akin to a fathers worst nightmare: the murder and cover up of a lone child at the hands of an untouchable and vast power.
At the centre of it all is Gibson’s Thomas Craven, homicide detective for the city of Boston and loving single father to Emma (Bonaja Novakovic).
It is a role which Gibson takes to very well. It may be 8 years since his last starring role (We Were Soldiers), but Gibbo still has the tools which made him such an effective leading man, and like a well rested heavyweight fighter he comes out swinging hard and often hits his mark.
Without Gibson in this picture, it is difficult to imagine just which actor could bring on the old school grit needed to portray this role. Kevin Costner is too soft; Clint Eastwood is well spent; and Harrison Ford has become beyond placid.
Not many can pull off the simmering rage which Gibson displays here, the slightest expression on his weathered face speaking volumes. But then again, that should not be a surprise: Gibson has always been one of the best physical actors out there.
It is Emma’s murder which kicks Craven and thus the film into gear, the brutal and abrupt fashion of the violence sure to shock. Yet it will be the image of Craven cradling his fatally wounded daughter that will burn deep into the memory of its viewers, and score empathy for a man crippled on the inside, yet driven by vengeance, the attainment of truth, and love for “his girl”.
Surprisingly, what follows is less the action packed spectacle teased, and more a taut investigative thriller which boats layers upon layers of mystery, revolving around a corporate and government cover up, the term “it’s classified” sure to irritate the viewer as much as it does Craven’s obsessed father.
Along the way are run-ins with unhinged CEO Danny Huston (who has created quite a career as a scene stealer), and Ray Winstone’s morally conflicted fixer, sent to “clean” an increasingly bloody situation.
Much like last year’s State of Play, Edge of Darkness is based on a popular BBC television series. Original director Martin Campbell returns for this American adaptation, and when he is on top of his game (note his two game changing Bond films), Campbell is very good. Yet here, the ugly head of studio interference pops up one time too many. Re-shoots are evident, and a clearly hacked third act just does not register.
Yet luckily for him –and us – Gibson’s performance more than makes up for any the films transgressions.
Gibbo is back. Relish it.