On paper, Edge of Darkness sounds like a great film. Homicide detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) travels the streets of Boston seeking revenge against the people responsible for his daughter’s death. Along the way, a shadowy figure named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) materializes, warning Craven about the dangers of uncovering the true reason for his daughter’s death. Craven, who feels like he no longer has anything to lose, refuses to stop until he finds the truth and makes those responsible pay.
Unfortunately, the movie is never quite as good as its premise. While there are a few great scenes and memorable moments sprinkled throughout the film, overall it just feels flat. It seems like the movie can’t decide what it wants to be – an action film, a suspense thriller or a drama about a grieving dad. As a result, it only really scratches the surface of those three genres, which keeps the film from ever really building to something memorable.
Edge of Darkness is at its best when Mel Gibson erupts into fits of rage, either pummeling or gunning down the bad guys, but the film isn’t meant to be a true action-adventure revenge story, so those moments are few and far between. Most of the movie centers around a sulking Gibson as he searches for clues and struggles to come to grips with his daughter’s tragic death. The problem is that Craven’s big search for the truth is never as captivating as it should be. The movie fails to build enough suspense as it goes along and the reason for Emma’s death feels underwhelming when it is ultimately revealed.
Besides Gibson’s occasional bursts of violence, the best moments in the film come when Ray Winstone is on the screen. Winstone effortlessly adds a layer of depth and intrigue to the character of Jedburgh, a mysterious figure who shows up to “assess” the situation once Craven begins uncovering the truth. Jedburgh manages to feel sorry for Craven while also making it clear that he will eliminate him if he has to. It’s interesting to note that Robert De Niro was originally cast to play Jedburgh, but he left during filming due to undisclosed creative differences. After seeing the film, it’s hard to picture De Niro or anyone else playing the role. Winstone just owns the part; casting anyone else as Jedburgh would have completely changed the movie.
There are also quite a few sweet scenes featuring Craven and his daughter Emma (played by both Bojana Novakovic and Gabrielle Popa). These scenes come as a mix of flashbacks and imaginary conversations with Emma that take place in Craven’s head after her death. The most touching scene is a charming flashback where a young Emma mimics Craven’s actions as he shaves his face. In general, the flashbacks work better than the imaginary conversations with Emma. While a few of those scenes work well, others make Craven seem schizophrenic, since he is carrying on bizarre full conversations with someone only he can see and hear.
Mel Gibson gives a great performance, as always. Edge of Darkness is his first on-screen role in six years, but he returns without showing any signs of rust. The role requires him to be a bit more subdued and introverted than audiences are used to seeing him, but he plays it well. My only complaint about his performance is his Boston accent, which at times sounds annoyingly high pitched and nasally. I would have preferred he did the role without the trademark Boston accent, since not everyone living in Boston sounds like that, even if Hollywood seems convinced that they do.
I was given the Blu-ray version of the film to review and I’m happy to report that the movie looks and sounds beautiful in high definition. There are a lot of great exterior shots of the city that really shine in high def. All of the gunshots and punches sound really devastating as well. High definition does make the age lines on Gibson’s face more noticeable, but don’t worry, ladies, he still looks quite handsome.
The Blu-ray release also comes with deleted and alternate scenes and a series of vignettes referred to as “Focus Points.” There are a total of 10 “Focus Points” altogether, all of them very brief and underwhelming. The vignettes are essentially self-congratulatory pieces that focus on the music in the film or the original BBC mini-series or Mel Gibson’s performance, telling you why those things were so great. It feels like they are trying too hard to convince you and they never delve deep enough into a subject to actually tell you anything noteworthy or interesting about it.
If you are interested in Edge of Darkness, I would recommend renting it before buying it. The film itself, while containing a few great performances and memorable scenes, never really delivers the way it should and the bonus features are unsatisfying. The movie is on the edge of greatness, but it never really makes it there.
Written by Joel Murphy. Edge of Darkness is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand and for download.
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