Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston
Screenplay by: William Monahan, Andrew Bovell, Troy Kennedy Martin adapted from Martin’s BBC Series
Mel Gibson has taken a lot of hits in the last five years. Not all of it unwarranted, but most of it has been. His big problem, he is a Christian, conservative and imperfect. Heaven help you if you succeed in Hollywood with those three traits. Point is, Mel Gibson is now more of a lightning rod than an actor. In a town where convicted child molesters (Roman Polanski, Victor Salva) get more sympathy than raised eyebrows, you’d think it would not be so important to nail a guy to the wall for drunk driving and disputable racist and sexist comments. Gibson has not helped his own cause, ending a 29 year marriage last year to have a child with a 24 years younger than he, only to end that relationship a year later.
In the midst of all this, Mel had his first starring role in almost 7 years. His last, Signs, was a huge hit in 2002. He took a break, directing the wildly controversial (and quite literal) The Passion of The Christ in 2004 and the unfairly maligned Apocalypto in 2006. With Edge of Darkness, Gibson makes a quiet return for such an intense movie. This is not really a bad thing. Mel has been one of two modes since first hitting it big in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; quiet, humble, ass kicking anti-hero, or loud, pranking, ass-kicking anti-hero. He broke out of this mode with a few movies (The Man Without A Face, Forever Young and, most notably, Tequila Sunrise), but, for the most part you knew what you were going to get. This happens when you find a way to make money, which Mel did. You keep doing it. Oh well, enough for me.
As Thomas Craven, Mel is back in his quiet, humble, ass-kicking mode as an older cop who has no enemies. Within the first few frames, Mel reconnects with his daughter, finds her to be hiding something as well as battling some sort of illness, and on their way out the door, she is shot by someone shouting their last name. There is no logical reason for the name to be shouted, of course, except as a plot device. It could be him they were after and just happened to miss with a sawed off shotgun, or could it be…well, you get the drift.
Of course they will ask him to stay out of the investigation, in which everyone believes that he was the intended target. Of course Craven will conduct his own investigation. Of course people wearing expensive suits will be harangued by Craven. Of course he will take the investigation where the people in those expensive suits don’t want him to go. If you are looking for originality, you won’t find it in this plot.
That does not mean this movie is not worth watching. Along the way, some of
the suits break off and send their own man into the fray. This man, Jedburgh, is portrayed with customary excellence by Ray Winstone. Jedburgh takes the assignment, but takes it on his own terms. His viewpoint is a seemingly tangential one for the events of the film, but it plays well as a counter to Craven’s march forward to revenge. I won’t give you much about Jedburgh, but I will say that his dimension and Winstone’s easy and graceful acting is far and away the film’s best feature.
Gibson was brave to share screen time with him, but even with his character’s singular dimension, Mel plays the hell out of it. His Boston accent is pretty flawless, when compared to the critically lauded accents of The Departed, he fares quite favorably. He is believable in this role, not just because he has done it so often, but because I feel Gibson has always been able to channel his grief for the camera. I am not sure what in his real life has given Gibson his reservoir of woe, but no one looks down the barrel of the gun of grief like Mel.
Danny Huston is an actor I always love to see on the screen. I think he has acting chops, but he’s got a kind face…that looks like it is hiding something. At this point, he has become a predictable foil for protagonists in almost any movie. From the moment you see him on the screen you think to yourself, ‘Just shoot him now!‘ He is almost to the Malkovich stage. Producers would do well to pick this guy as a MacGuffin, or indeed, just a good guy in a future movie for a good change of pace.
Martin Campbell has directed two of the best James Bond films (Golden Eye and Casino Royale) and more than a few other excellent films. He is workmanlike here, but not real surprising. He’s done better, but this is not bad.
Monohan goes once more to the Boston police and corruption well here, adapting this story from a BBC television series of the same name. This will not be remembered as anyone’s best work (except, perhaps, Winstone). It may be remembered, however, as a good film.
(***1/2 out of *****)