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Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

EDGE of Darkness marks Mel Gibson’s first acting role in eight years – and it’s worth the wait.

A condensed version of an acclaimed ’80s BBC TV mini-series, Martin Campbell’s conspiracy thriller is a well-chosen comeback vehicle that provides a potent reminder of Gibson’s undoubted skill as a leading man.

It helps that it plays to his strengths, too, as no one does grief-stricken, edgy characters quite as well as Mel (as evidenced by Lethal Weapon, Payback, Ransom and even Hamlet).

In this case, he plays veteran Boston police detective Thomas Craven, who is forced to investigate the murder of his daughter (Bojana Novakovic) after she is killed in front of him.

While most of his colleagues believe he was the intended target, Craven suspects it has something to do with with the shady nuclear company she’s been working for and targets its chief businessman (Danny Huston) as the prime suspect.

Helping and hindering in mysterious fashion, meanwhile, is the shadowy figure of Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), who seems to have his own agenda for finding out who is to blame and then delivering his own brand of justice.

Admittedly, this condensed and updated version of the BBC TV serial suffers from a tighter running time and less opportunity to flesh out the characters (with Winstone’s Jedburgh arguably the biggest loser).

But Campbell, who directed the original (as well as Casino Royale), still manages to turn out a solid, slow-burning conspiracy movie that’s prone to sudden and extreme bursts of violence.

William Monahan and Andrew Bovell’s suitably twisting script plays up the conspiracy elements well and invokes a keen sense of paranoia, while offering a handful of nice scenes between Gibson and Winstone (a last minute replacement for Robert De Niro) in particular.

The film’s biggest asset, however, is Gibson and any fears that he may have lost his edge prove quickly unfounded.

Gibson cuts a suitably imposing, yet distraught, central figure whose relentless pursuit of the truth and justice warrants our sympathy and close attention throughout the film’s running time.

It’s a wounded, vulnerable and highly believable performance that elevates the film to a much higher status than some of the writing deserves, particularly if you’ve seen and loved the original.

And if the very last scene smacks of Hollywood over-sentimentality and feels out of keeping with the general tone of the rest of the film, that shouldn’t deter from what’s generally an absorbing and highly efficient thriller that’s well worth taking the time to see.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 14, 2010