Tagline: Some secrets take us to the edge.
Synopsis: A resolute police detective mistakes the death of his daughter as a plot on his life until evidence reveals her involvement and likely murder cover-up by a national security corporation that will do anything to clean up the mess.
Initial thoughts: I just screened Edge of Darkness , Mel Gibson’s first starring role since M. Night Shyamalan’s disappointing aliens from outer space flick, Signs – co-starring two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix who, as it would seem made the film Two Lovers, directed by James Gray, his last film. Some have argued that Gibson doesn’t have the chops to successfully carry a film at the box office, especially with the cloud of his anti-Semitic tirade after getting arrested for driving under the influence – yet all in all I was nicely surprised to find quite a little gem here. Mel Gibson returns to former glory as stern police detective, Thomas Craven who witnesses the death of his daughter that leads him to the threads of a conspiracy the harder he looks for answers. Directed by Martin Campbell, who incidentally directed 6 episodes of the original television series back in the mid 80’s, the film stretches out and takes a subtle pace, delivering rapier thin dialog and clever conundrums as the story slowly unfolds. Ray Winstone delivers, as usual, that sly, cockney drawl everyman who looks taught for the part of Jedburgh – a member of an uber-secretive clandestine group of movers and shakers. Mel Gibson reminded me why he’s been around as long as he has, through ridiculous news stories, minor accomplishes and major disappointments. I remembered why I’ve liked him back to Mad Max, when they had to dub his voice because the producers were concerned that people might not understand him. Not only do they understand Mr. Gibson but people everywhere have heard of him too and I look forward to seeing more of him back on the big screen where he belongs.
Meat & Potatoes: In researching for this review I found articles that touched on possible reasons for the failure of this film at the box office – something I was thinking as I watched it last night. Maybe it was too slow for some, that an even pace with smart dialog was not enough for viewers who watched the original theatrical trailer and found the full film lacking. How often have you watched a trailer only to discover that the film itself was a painfully different experience? At Boxofficemojo.com (a great site for tracking box office receipts, among other things) we see that Edge of Darkness, a highly anticipated revenge-thriller opened in January of 2010 and was quickly sent to DVD in no short part due to poor marketing of the career-wounded and publicity scarred star, Mel Gibson. Perhaps audiences just weren’t ready to see Gibson yet, with his highly publicized anti-Semitic slurs after a 2006 drunk driving incident all too fresh. One can’t help but wonder how much the controversy over his prior films, Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto – both pet-project-personal and violence saturated, and the crumbling state of his public persona on the world stage collectively doomed the success of Edge of Darkness. I for one went into the picture with a clear mind and can say without hesitation that for those who have not seen this film you are missing out.
Whereas Gibson did not share the star billing, aside from a very notable if not familiar performance by Ray Winstone, is yet to convince me that this in and of itself was a poor decision. Gibson has a proven track record of carrying films and one not look very far to see the success of the 54 year-old actor/director/writer/producer in films like Braveheart (1995) which while not a blockbuster took in $210 plus million dollars. If anything, Edge of Darkness will most likely be resurrected in time, revisited by audiences after the dust and debris of public scrutiny subsides.
Further Thoughts: We the collective viewer are a fickled bunch, the American movie audience – there when the roses are in bloom but scattered in the aftermath of summer, unwilling to prune the prickly bushes in the likely hood that our hard work and allegiance will go unappreciated. As the next season of remakes, flops, and record-setting blockbusters prepare for the box office, we watch and wait, always one step away from scrutiny dished out ten fold.
The Closer: While reviewers and audiences alike scored Edge of Darkness with A’s and B’s, the $80 million dollar Mel Gibson vehicle failed to bring in the box office receipts necessary to sustain a lengthy stay in theaters. What a shame. You’ll not be disappointed as Mel Gibson returns to the forefront in the wake of personal troubles that really have no place in the business of filmmaking. What made Mel Gibson endearing has not changed, though I am not surprised that backlash remains a black eye for him. Yet many a production and star have succumb to the weight of personal criticism that often curtails the success of worthy films. Mel Gibson delivers a stunning performance where long scenes unfold with such precision as to question who, if anyone, could have adequately taken this role on? I imagined Sean Penn might have delivered his trademark bravado with equal amounts of vulnerability, though as much as I am a stalwart Penn fan, even he would have come in second to what I consider one of Mel Gibson’s finest, most emotionally available performance since Braveheart.