Edge of Darkness Review: Welcome Back, Mel

Mel Gibson has been there in multiple films before. The loss of a family member, conspiracy swirling with lies he sees through but others cannot, and a state of mind more fragile than a leaning tower of crystal glasses. At some point over the past 8 years, dating back to his last on-screen role hosing down aliens in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, Mel the man began to embody Mel the actor’s roles. That is not a sane place for any man’s conscious to wander.

The actor/director/producer’s fall from grace and rise onto the cover of tabloid magazines left many wondering if his Hollywood days were numbered. If those pundits had paid closer attention to his work behind and in front of the camera then they would realize Mel is not the type of man to throw in the towel over verbal scandals, alcohol abuse and marital woes.

What did not kill Mel, and drunken driving certainly could have, has made him stronger as the half-century age mark grows increasingly smaller in the rearview mirror. All his pent up anger at misguided life choices is put on display in Edge of Darkness, a theatrical adaptation of the 1985 BBC miniseries as much an audition for Mel’s future as anything else.

Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Green Lantern) helmed the original as well as the remake and has publicly stated Mel was the only man capable of pulling off the role of a loner Boston police detective whose only daughter is killed in cold blood on his doorstep. Liam Neeson may have convincingly chased kidnappers in Taken but he had someone and something to live for. The death of a child or loved one and the mental anguish that brings about is no foreign territory for the man behind Mad Max and Martin Riggs. The lines of deep wrinkles scarring Mel’s face unintentionally reinforce this idea.

Edge of Darkness unravels the type of multilayered corporate and government conspiracy that was prominent to feature back in the 1970s and 80s. The dark and overwhelmingly depressing script does little to hide a succession of secrets before they are uncovered. Campbell’s casual unforced direction in intimate and action-oriented moments, and superb performances by not only Mel but the supporting cast override bouts of predictability to make the journey towards a far-fetched finale more fun than arriving there.

Danny Huston is superbly slimy as the greedy corporate villain with an artificial glaze on his face like a freshly baked Krispy Kreme donut. His security practices and choice of minimal thugs is questionable, but his ruthlessness and disregard for the importance of family are the spawn of pure evil and perfect target for Mel to direct his thirst for vengeance.

Though Mel is great in switching his emotions from grief to revenge to sympathetic at a moment’s notice, the real standout, or is that unusual performance, goes to Ray Winstone as a sort of mysterious hit man whose complicated job it is to ensure no one can connect the dots from point A to B in a conspiracy. His character is fearsome yet subtly expresses vulnerability to Mel’s mourning through his actions and sharp, witty monotone dialogue.

Nevertheless, grizzled old Mel Gibson with a wonky Boston accent carries Edge of Darkness on his shoulders. It really does not matter if the personal demons affecting his own life permeated into his character’s grief or not. Mel has played this desperate and despondent role to perfection before, and a nearly decade-long hiatus shows nary a spec of rust in his vigilant comeback performance.

– Dan Bradley

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