Movie Review: Edge of incoherence

BY ALEX RICH | FEBRUARY 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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** 1/2 out of *****

One of Hollywood’s most controversial figures, Mel Gibson, has been absent from major pictures since his anti-Semitic tirade during a DUI arrest in July 2006, but now he returns to the big screen in Edge of Darkness.

Gibson’s career has simultaneously alienated audiences and brought them together through such pictures as The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.

The latest, Edge of Darkness, is a slick crime thriller that ends up being too ambitious with its plot. Gibson’s return to the screen falls flat because of script troubles and poor direction.

The film follows the story of Tom Craven (Gibson), a hard-nosed Boston homicide detective.

Craven’s daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic), a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and employee of a top-secret weapons conglomerate, comes to visit. Emma is suffering from an unknown disease that causes her to vomit, and she tries to tell her father the secret to her sickness.

However, before she can tell him, Craven rushes her out the door to get to the hospital, where the two are met by a lone gunman who fires a shotgun and kills Emma.

The audience members are then strapped in while they follow Craven’s quest to find his daughter’s murderer. The Boston police assumes the killer was seeking vengeance for an old case, but as Craven digs deeper, corporate and government forces, as well as the mysterious “fixer” Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), try to obstruct his investigation.

The major problem with this film is how complicated the plot gets. Imagine trying to fit in an entire season of “The Sopranos” or “Lost” into a two-hour time slot, and that is what Edge of Darkness tries to do. The movie is based on a 1985 six-part serial for the BBC, and cutting from six to two hours is not an easy task for the writers, which explains the lack of character development. Craven remains flat, and maybe because of Gibson’s past roles as an action hero, the audience doesn’t expect anything but that stock player. The end result is a convoluted mess of a plot with no clear message.

Critics can say what they want about Gibson’s politics and religious views, as well as his performance in the classic What Women Want, but he chose a role he would fit. From his early days in Mad Max to the Lethal Weapon series, he has proven that he can play an intense hero along with the appropriate comic relief. This film is no different, and honestly, his performance is not that bad as a bereaved father and intense hunter.

The biggest disappointment in the film is director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, The Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale). Campbell should have focused on what he does best — big-budget action flicks without an overly complicated, confusing plot. The movie is filled with conspiracies ranging from private Blackwater-type security firms running the government to the manufacturing of nuclear “dirty bombs” by American companies, none of which are properly explored. However, Campbell does make a visually clean film — the cinematography is perfect for a slick thriller.

Although not a great picture by any stretch of the imagination, it will please the adrenaline junkies in the audience who are getting the shakes in the post-awards season.

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