Ready to share the darkness with Mel again?
SOME years ago, a group of GAA people were debating the merits of a certain Galway footballer. One man reckoned he had been terribly unlucky never to win an All Star. Another suggested he was the county’s best defender. This was too much for a third individual, who said he was not ‘even the best defender in his own house’.
I was reminded of that exchange on the way out of ‘Edge of Darkness’, when someone ten years my senior announced it was ‘not a patch on the original’. He was referring to the 1985 BBC mini-series which inspired this film adaptation. Both are the work of Martin Campbell, who directed ‘Casino Royale’.
‘Edge of Darkness’ is a revenge thriller, so despite his long absence from leading roles, it was no surprise to see Mel Gibson in the lead role. From ‘Mad Max’ to ‘Ransom’, and from ‘Braveheart’ to ‘The Patriot’, Mel’s characters are generally on a mission, and/or out for blood. Given his famous anti-Semitic rant and drink driving arrest, it’s that his return to the big screen sees him cast as a cop. Mind you, some film-goers seem more put out by his Boston accent than his misdeeds back in 2006. His twang won’t be too off-putting for most Irish viewers, however, and Gibson – much craggier now – is still up to the job.
The movie opens with Tom Craven (Gibson) reunited with his daughter Emma for the first time in quite a while. Before they have a chance to properly catch up, she is shot on their doorstep. Tom initially thinks he was the target, but as learns more about Emma’s life, it becomes clear that the assassin knew exactly who he was after.
“This is a cop thing – officer involved,” he is told by colleagues who vow to get the bottom of it. But Craven is intent on solving the crime – a whydunnit, as much as a whodunnit – himself. Warned that the people behind the hit are armed and dangerous, he snarls: “What do you think I am?”
A man with no enemies – which raises the question of just how effective a cop he is – Craven tracks down Emma’s former boyfriend and follows the advice Seán Connery dished out in ‘The Untouchables’: “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun.” He tries to explore Emma’s work at a secretive private company with murky nuclear dealings.
Ray Winstone crops up as a shadowy security consultant whose loyalties are unclear. The body count begins to rise. Every potential whistle-blower is reluctant to talk, and many end up dead. Craven finds himself followed by the increasingly all-powerful corporation goons. A US Senator is implicated in a conspiracy. There’s a bloodbath. At least, that’s the simple version.
The script is hit and miss – for every “You had better decide whether you’re hanging on the cross or banging in the nails”, there’s a less original warning. “I’m the guy with nothing to lose and who doesn’t give a s***!” Craven says at one point. Yawn! Haven’t we been here before? Does a cop with something to lose ever unravel a mystery?
In summary, ‘Edge of Darkness’ is a perfectly decent B-movie, but its web of intrigue becomes a little too spun out. There’s no ‘big bang’ moment in the scheme for the audience, merely a sense of having our suspicions confirmed. It’s a pity that every major new discovery is mirrored by dramatic music – we can see it’s a gun in the bedside locker, we don’t need an orchestra to tell us it matters. This genre-hopper isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is.