Mel Gibson in Edge of Darkness (2010)

(director: Martin Campbell; screenwriters: William Monahan/Andrew Bovell/based on the BBC mini-series written by Troy Kennedy Martin; cinematographer: Phil Méheux; editor: Stuart Baird; music: Howard Shore; cast: Mel Gibson (Thomas Craven), Ray Winstone (Darius Jedburgh), Danny Huston (Jack Bennett), Bojana Novakovic (Emma Craven), Damian Young (Senator Jim Pine), Shawn Roberts (Burnham), Jay O. Sanders (Whitehouse), David Aaron Baker (Milroy), Caterina Scorsone(Melissa); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Graham King/Tim Headington/Michael Wearing; Warner Bros..; 2010-UK/USA)
“Convoluted action thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mel Gibson has been away from the cameras for eight years, since last acting in Signs. The fiftysomething actor has since gone through a bout with alcoholism and the bad publicity of a public uttering of anti-Semitic slurs, and as a result his rep has taken a well-deserved hit. This formula B-film procedural crime drama is a convoluted action thriller, that has blue-collar Boston policeman Tom Craven (Mel Gibson) solving on his own, James Bond style, the murder of his 24-year-old scientist trainee daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic), bringing down a corrupt smug U.S. senator (Damian Young) and, also, the evil head of a U.S. defense plant and nuclear research facility (Danny Huston) where his daughter worked. Brit filmmaker Martin Campbell (“The Mask of Zorro”/”Vertical Limit”/”Casino Royale”) directed the modest revenge film remake that’s based on the original BBC mini-series some 24 years earlier in 1985, which was also directed by Campbell. That this is such a shoddy and vulgar version of the well-presented acclaimed original series, is a little bit of a surprise since Campbell was involved in both productions. It’s written without distinction by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell.

Emma returns to the Boston home of her loving widowed dad and gets fatally gunned down in the doorway of the house with a shotgun blast delivered from a passing car. The police mistakenly think dad was the target and put all their effort in catching the culprit. Grieving dad, seeing ghosts of Emma as a happy child everywhere, goes lone wolf angry and soon comes up with answers that there’s something not kosher about the top-secret private Northmoor defense plant in Northampton, Mass, where his scared-stiff daughter, packing a rod, worked as a research intern and realizes that Emma was indeed the target. Into the mix appears the mysterious menacing Brit private security contractor Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a world-weary enforcerhired by the U.S. Defense Department operatives to clean up the mess at Northmoor that resulted not only in Emma’s death but three other young adults. We discover that Emma was a corporate whistle blower who joined an underground group of environmentalist anti-corporate activists that were called Nightflower, who were onto illegal nuclear activity at the plant.

Nothing of interest is presented, as it never comes together as a smart political thriller. The film aims to be a populist vehicle for Mel to do his familiar self-righteous act of fury thing, as it has the honest little guy public servant up against the mighty corporate and government types who wield the power in America. This gives Mel, sporting a sometimes believable Boston accent, a chance to punch the heavies around and execute them frontier style, for being greedy materialistic pigs who are sabotaging the country. If seeing Mel do his Payback thing is your idea of good entertainment, be my guest–this film delivers crowd pleasing action sequences, even if it fails to act as a moral compass for corruption by the big boys and delve into anything complex.