Sunday, January 31, 2010

I've been crawling in the dark, looking for the answer – “Edge of Darkness”

"Edge of Darkness" is a relatively standard thriller that is nevertheless affecting.

Affecting in the sense that I expected a sudden and violent death for several hours after my viewing of it. Walking back alone is not recommended.

Full of conspiracy theories and secret cover-ups, "Edge of Darkness" is much less an action film than the trailers would have you believe. The movie is an adaptation of the 1985 BBC television series, and despite the original series' 6-hour length, the film never becomes too complicated or overstuffed.

"Edge of Darkness" stars Mel Gibson in his first leading role since "Signs" in 2002. Though he has attracted much ire from, shall we say, his personal life in recent years, it is nonetheless good to see him back onscreen again.

Gibson makes an effective return in "Edge of Darkness."

Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective whose daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) killed in front of him on his front porch. Authorities believe that he was the intended target and that she was caught in the crossfire. Craven is not so sure.

What follows is an investigation that leads Craven through many different sections and districts of Boston. He is helped in part by the enigmatic Jedburgh (Ray Winston, previously seen in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"), who could be friend, foe, both, or neither.

Referred to by his employers as a "clean-up man," Winston gives a wry and intriguing performance as Jedburg.

Gibson plays Craven as a straight and no nonsense man with a Boston accent who is driven by a single purpose: to find out what happened to his daughter. While this role has been played by many an actor in many a movie, Gibson brings a grounded and hard-boiled edge to the character that makes him less of a superhuman action star and more of a man, relatable and human.

At times, he is darkly comedic. Consider a scene in which his partner on the force tells Craven to sleep at his place instead of Craven's house. "There's a guy out there who's armed and dangerous," he says. "What do you think I am?" responds Craven. Or a scene in which he finds a guy who may have had an indirect hand in his daughter's death and gives him a good thrashing. "I'm not going to hit you again, she wouldn't want me to," sighs Craven, and then on second thought does it anyway.

After 8 years, it's nice to have Mel Gibson back to kick some ass.

Though the plot could be described as a standard police thriller, the dialogue and characters are rather well-written. The movie has many small touches where it seems to respect the thinking capacities of its audience and mentions things without overexplaining them, such as a reference to the writings of Scott Fitzgerald or an untranslated bit of Latin; "You know what that means," says one character, and the other simply nods because, yes, he does know what it means.

Producer Graham King, like in his previous production "The Departed," uses the Boston setting to great effect, allowing its distinctly New England look to distinguish the movie without drawing too much attention to itself. The whole world seems very lived-in, and not drummed up for the occasion: Craven's kitchen is full of old wooden cabinets and outdated appliances, and even Craven himself is a man who we sense has been around awhile and isn't acting world-weary for the sheer hell of it.

Here is a man who looks every inch of his 50+ years.

Director Martin Campbell, who also directed "Casino Royale," also takes things a bit old-fashioned. Rather than using the Queasy Cam effect to create more "immersion" or quickly cutting between the characters while they're talking, he simply lets the camera sit still and photograph them.

There is a fistfight during an earlier part of the movie, and dear readers, I could actually tell who was punching who. In a world where every thriller and its uncle is looking to ape "The Bourne Ultimatum," I can't tell you how nice it is to watch an action scene and know what's going on the entire time.

I enjoyed "Edge of Darkness," but it's definitely not for everyone. The movie is punctuated by moments of sudden and intense violence, and the ending is rather Shakespearian, if you get what I'm saying.

Still, the movie definitely had its moments, and Gibson's performance and character-work is a sight to behold. Tense and intelligent, "Edge of Darkness" will please moviegoers looking to have a darkly good time.

1 comment:

  1. Nice ending. "Darkly good time" basically sums up the movie for me. Now if I ever watch it I will know to look for that.