Monday, February 15, 2010

Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness
Grade: D
Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston
Director: Martin Campbell
Free Admission Granted

Why is Mel Gibson shaving?

The government wants him dead. They’ve already killed his daughter. Killers are still on his trail. Again, why is he shaving?

And why is he opening the door without his police-service revolver? In fact, why is he opening the door, period? And don’t let that guy in! What are you thinking?!

Edge of Darkness, a revenge thriller and would-be comeback for the beleaguered Gibson, leaves you asking those questions. You also are left asking what looks older, the balding Mel Gibson or the film’s exhausted plot? Conspiracies abound. If only someone had conspired to make the film worthwhile.

Edge of Darkness also presents us with the paradox of director Martin Campbell. How can a man be so successful with directing James Bond films (Casino Royale, Goldeneye) and so hopeless outside of the series (The Legend of Zorro)? Squished together from a 1980s BBC miniseries, Edge of Darkness leaves doors swinging in the wind, barely attached at the hinge. Entire scenes and subplots evanesce and then turn to vapor. One character’s fight with blindness drops in in a single scene before the darkness swallows it whole.

Edge of Darkness does have its pleasures. They come in the form of two of the better character actors around – Danny Huston and Ray Winstone. Huston has a habit of falling back on slimy operators. While these roles put food on his table, he’s a smarter actor and I wish he would do other things more often. Winstone eats everything and licks the plate as a wine-sipping man with no identity. William Monahan’s dialogue does crackle from time to time, giving Gibson and the chubby Englishman something delectable to ooze at each other.

It is rather shocking to see Gibson nowadays looking like an aging Robert DeNiro. There’s something Fred Astaire in the Towering Inferno sad about watching such a gigantic movie star reduced to playing in a bland revenge thriller.

As a grieving father lit with rage, Gibson remains a feral avenger. After eight years on the other side of the camera, he dons the uniform, straps on the pads and hits the holes. Yet it’s like watching aging male stars paired with Audrey Hepburn. There is a sadness watching him go through the motions, a star painted into a corner with nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.

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