As someone who has lived in the Bay State in the past, I appreciate nothing more than a movie full of terrible Boston accents. It's one of those accents actors try endlessly hard to approximate, as if to say there is, in fact, effort behind this accent. I consider myself a collector of bad Boston accents, and Edge of Darkness
is a delight in this regard—and only
this regard. As a thriller, this movie is as dull and predictable as a Boston townie's taste in coffee and donuts. And as a comeback vehicle for Mel Gibson, it's an extreme disappointment.
Gibson steps out from behind the camera for the first time in a number of years to play Tom Craven, a Boston city cop whose 20-something daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is coming home for her first visit in ages. Craven is beaming to have her home, but that quickly turns to concern when she starts to show signs of a bizarre sickness. As they frantically flee his home to head to the hospital, a gunman with a ski mask appears from a parked car, screams out “Craven!” and fires a shotgun their general direction, killing Emma (yet somehow leaving Tom completely uninjured). Initial suspicion is that Tom was the target, perhaps by an old enemy, but it doesn't take long for gears to shift toward Emma and her mysterious employer, a government contractor called Northmoor, headed up by the always reliably slimy Danny Huston. Edge of Darkness
tries to toe a line between the standard Gibson revenge picture and a sort of B-grade government conspiracy flick, but it never quite straddles it comfortably. Gibson is fine when he's knuckling his way through suspects to get to the information he needs, but when the script tries to move beyond the scope of Craven punching and shooting people, it dives into some truly silly territory, with crazy left-wing terrorist groups, poorly set-up double crosses, and a strange supporting role by Ray Winstone as an autonomous government agent of...something, who shows up periodically to say cryptic things, drink in public, and also occasionally shoot people. I sincerely never figured out why Winstone was even in this movie, save but to provide a character for Gibson to banter with, albeit fairly unintelligibly. Between Winstone's thick cockney speak and Gibson's mumbly Bostonian, their exchanges left me bewildered. Edge of Darkness
was directed by Casino Royale's
Martin Campbell, who also directed the original British miniseries on which this film was based. I've never seen the miniseries, partly because it's over 20 years old. I'm not entirely sure why this adaptation comes so many years later, since it doesn't really seem to have anything unique to offer on, well, anything. Screenwriters Andrew Bovell and William Monahan--who is setting up a nice cottage industry for himself adapting overseas crime flicks into Boston-based remakes--set this thing like a straight up potboiler. The villains are pure caricatures, scheming and cackling to themselves about all the evil things they're doing, and yet the final revelation behind what this conspiracy is all about is so hackneyed and flat that I couldn't help but wonder why these guys even bothered.
The real tragedy here though is Gibson, who tries to recapture the snarling glory of his earlier days, but it never comes together. He gets a few good one-liners and creative beatings, but mostly he stands around looking grim and weathered and occasionally has mawkish discussions with his dead daughter that feel like something out of a completely different, and way, way worse movie.
It's really too bad, because nobody's a bigger fan of Gibson's kill first, ask questions later routine than I am. Unfortunately, Campbell never really manages to get him going here. He seems haggard and out of his element, which might be attributable to how long it's been since we've seen him in this kind of role, but is more likely due to the general shoddiness of the material. It's nice to see Mel back, now let's just hope he finds his way back into better movies.