Warner Bros. // 2010 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 11th, 2010
Some secrets takes us to the edge.
Mel Gibson gets back in front of the camera for the first time since 2003's The Singing Detective in Edge of Darkness, a movie that's part revenge picture (like Payback) and part conspiracy thriller (like Conspiracy Theory). Was it worth the wait?
Boston detective Tom Craven (Mel Gibson, Braveheart) welcomes his activist daughter home just in time to see her murdered by a gunshot that the police believe was meant for him. As he sets out in search of his daughter's killer, he begins unraveling a conspiracy that goes higher up than he ever could have imagined.
Our expectations of a movie can ultimately alter the way we perceive that movie. Consider the 2010 crime drama Edge of Darkness, which was made to look in all of its advertising like a high-octane revenge movie in which steely-eyed, Bahstan-accented Mel Gibson goes after the bastards that murdered his daughter. It's the kind of movie Mel Gibson makes exceptionally well; from Mad Max to the Lethal Weapon films to Payback, no one does scowling, grim determination quite like him. But anyone expecting to enjoy Edge of Darkness as a revenge film is going to come away severely disappointed. The marketing has lied to you. It's not that movie at all.
I'm a big boy, and I can accept that. It's just a matter of adjusting my expectations to the movie I'm actually seeing as opposed to the movie I wanted it to be. Sometimes, that requires more than one viewing. Sometimes, it just requires some time and distance. In the case of Edge of Darkness, however, neither is going to make much of a difference. I don't mind that it's not the movie I thought it would be, but the movie it actually is, to put it bluntly, doesn't really work. It's a paranoid corporate conspiracy film muddled with an unclear plot and unnecessary characters -- the kind of movie that should have trimmed some fat in the editing room before its release in order to even stand a chance.
Though competently directed by filmmaker Martin Campbell (who successfully relaunched the Bond franchise in Casino Royale), perhaps the biggest issue with Edge of Darkness is that it tries to compress a six-hour British miniseries from 1985 (also directed by Campbell) into a two-hour movie, and the film collapses under the weight of all that plot. There are just too many story threads that veer off in too many directions, from environmental terrorism to corporate conspiracy to government cover-ups; at more than one point, tertiary characters literally stand around and explain what's happening to each other solely for the benefit of the audience. Ray Winstone (44 Inch Chest) gives perhaps the movie's best performance as one of its most interesting and mysterious characters, but doesn't actually serve much of a purpose. While his scenes opposite Gibson are engaging on the level of cool, tough-guy dialogue, you could realistically pull them from the movie and it wouldn't make a difference. His entire character exists separately from the rest of the film, which really needed to focus in on Gibson's quest to uncover the truth more clearly and succinctly.
Gibson is good in the movie, doing his usual unleashed pit-bull act (the accent can be a bit tough to take, but nothing too distracting), but Edge of Darkness doesn't quite merit the intensity of his quest. Yes, his daughter's murder is brutal (almost unnecessarily so; the bursts of violence are infrequent, but very, very bloody when they occur). Yes, we want to see him get justice for her death. But because the movie runs him around its messy, undercooked plot, the urgency of his mission isn't properly served. In one scene, he intimidates a bad guy inside of a car, threatening that he's to be feared because he's "got nothing to lose." It's the kind of dialogue (by Andrew Bovell and William Monahan) that sounds great in a trailer, but there's a problem: all Gibson is trying to do is set up a meeting with a politician. We want Liam Neeson in Taken. We get a guy who will stop at nothing to make an appointment.
Edge of Darkness arrives on Blu-ray with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The HD presentation is warm and effectively dark, highlighting a lot of fine detail; you'll marvel at every crack and line in star Mel Gibson's incredibly weathered face. There are no noticeable flaws in the transfer, and I couldn't spot any artifacting or egregious noise reduction. The dialogue in the film is well-handled by the DTS-HD Master Audio track, as is the rest of the film's sonic palette, albeit in a fairly subdued way. The bursts of action pack some punch, but it's not a terribly lively track overall. It services the film well, but does little more.
The supplementary section is mostly promotional in nature, with a standard making-of piece broken down into nine short featurettes (called "Focus Points") that each cover one aspect of the production: "Mel's Back," "Making a Ghost Character Real," "Scoring the Edge of Darkness," "Revisiting the Edge of Darkness Miniseries," "Adapting the Edge of Darkness Miniseries," "Thomas Craven's War of Attrition," "Boston as a Character," "Director Profile: Martin Campbell" and "Edge of Your Seat." A handful of additional and alternate scenes are also available, but they add little to the experience. The disk is also BD-Live capable. A second disc, containing a standard definition DVD copy and a digital copy of Edge of Darkness, is also included.
Mel Gibson's return to movie stardom didn't exactly burn up the box office when it was released earlier this year. I suspect it's a film more people are going to be discovering on DVD and Blu-ray, and that's likely to serve the movie well; divorced from the marketing blitz leading up to the film's release, audiences may forget that Edge of Darkness promised a badass revenge thriller and be more accepting of the movie it actually is. That movie still doesn't work -- we might all be better off seeking out the original British miniseries -- but it's a passable time waster. Higher praise than that I'm not sure I can muster.
Average at best.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site