Rated R for strong bloody violence and language, 117 minutes
Gibson's messy "Darkness" seems familiar
Mel Gibson hasn't played a lead in a movie since 2002 in the thriller "Signs," but he returns to the screen in another thriller that treads the same ground as his other revenge flicks, "Ransom," "Payback" and even the "Lethal Weapon" films. It's nice seeing Gibson again in front of the camera though the tale is well-worn and the "Mad Max" star himself is looking, well, a little old. It starts off well then takes some very predictable turns in the stale, bloody and very implausible second act.
The set up is simple. Gibson is a veteran Boston cop named Craven. His twentysomething daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) comes home for a visit and is gunned down in front of his house. Craven initially thinks he was the target until he begins his own investigation and finds out the company his daughter was working for is involved in making nuclear weapons and is trying to cover it up. The silmy head of the corporation (Danny Huston), a U.S. Senator (Damian Young), a hitman (Ray Winstone) and one of Craven's own colleagues (Jay O. Sanders) may be at the center of it all, something that Craven is determined to uncover, even if it costs him his own life in the process.
"Edge of Darkness" is a by-the-numbers, somewhat enjoyable but sloppy revenge flick based on an award-winning 1980's British TV miniseries of the same name that allows Gibson to return to acting in style, directed by "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell and co-written by "The Departed" Oscar-winner William Monahan. But it's Campbell's unoriginal direction and Monahan's hokey, contrived script that hamper the proceedings, in spite of a likable performance by Gibson, who's really too old for the whole revenge formula, even if he is playing the good guy again.
"Edge of Darkness" is filled with too many non-essential characters that confuse the plot, and the initial chapters are modestly involving until about 40 minutes in, when Gibson's character could've been killed on the spot but isn't. A few nice car crashes and chases add some energy and Huston (of the famous Huston movie clan including Walter, John and Anjelica) is a genuine slimeball though his demise can be easily predicted from the moment he walks on screen (and in another huge contrivance - Craven could've easily killed him midway through the film - but doesn't).
Above all, Gibson has done this film before and none of it really comes as a big surprise. It nearly falls apart under a mess of blood and bullets near the end not to mention a really sappy ending that is surprising coming from a gifted writer like Monahan but unsurprising given what a ham Gibson can be as an actor.
"Edge of Darkness" is entertaining enough to make some money in its first couple of weeks and then will be easily forgotten; it'll also be remembered as one of Gibson's weaker films and could underscore the fact that as of late, he's a better director than actor.