Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Video review: "Edge of Darkness"

Mel Gibson, in his first starring role in eight years, is effective and believable as a tough Boston cop out for revenge after his daughter is murdered. But the plot is such a discombobulated mess, the movie comes across as a disjointed set of knife fights and pummeling of suspects.

Gibson plays Craven, a veteran detective who becomes unhinged when his only child is gunned down on his doorstep. His investigation leads to the castle-like headquarters of Northmoor, the mysterious corporation where she worked. The cryptic boss (Danny Huston) gives elusive answers to Craven's questions. Meanwhile, a British spook (Ray Winstone) is dispatched to deal with Craven, but ends up befriending him.

Director Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") knows how to construct action scenes. But the script contains abrupt shifts in mood and tone. We never get to know Craven prior to his daughter's murder, so he only exists as a vehicle for revenge. And the strange interspersing of humorous moments severs any connection the audience might have developed for Craven's pain.

Mel Gibson still has the juice. But he's going to need better material than this for his cinematic rehabilitation.

"Edge of Darkness" is available on DVD and in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that includes a digital copy of the film.

Extras are fair to middling. There are four deleted scenes totaling about five minutes. Watching them, one can see why they were left on the cutting room floor.

A nine-part set of featurettes contains a whole lot of glad-handing, but a few juicy tidbits are to be found. Gibson traces the film's roots to 17th century Jacobean revenge tragedies, in which the villains have names that describe their flaws and, as Gibson succinctly puts it, "everybody kills each other in the end."

Knowing he had a one-way-ticket, Craven's character was even supposed to pay for his own funeral, in a scene that was never shot.

Campbell describes the BBC miniseries he directed in the 1980s that formed the basis for this film. The TV version had more political overtones that were jettisoned.

Movie: 2 stars
Extras: 2.5 stars

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