Monday, February 1, 2010

Movie Review: Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness ***
Directed By:
Martin Campbell.
Written By: William Monahan & Andrew Bovell based on the BBC Miniseries.
Starring: Mel Gibson (Thomas Craven), Ray Winstone (Jedburgh), Danny Huston (Jack Bennett), Bojana Novakovic (Emma Craven), Shawn Roberts (Burnham), David Aaron Baker (Millroy), Jay O. Sanders (Whitehouse), Denis O'Hare (Moore), Damian Young (Senator Jim Pine), Caterina Scorsone (Melissa), Frank Grillo (Agent One), Wayne Duvall (Chief of Police), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Detective Darcy Jones).

Greedy Corporations have become the new catch all villain in America movies – following Nazis, Communists and Islamic Terrorists, who at one point were the go to villains for thrillers like this. Corporations make excellent villains – they do not care about people, only profits, and all one has to do is look at the newspaper on any given day to discover that one. So Hollywood has just taken it another step farther, and made them even more evil then they really are. Apparently the British were ahead of the curve on this one, since Edge of Darkness is based on a 1985 BBC miniseries (which, it must be said, is a better, richer experience than this movie). If a thriller is only as good as its villain, than Edge of Darkness has a great villain.

In the film, Mel Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a detective with the Boston Police who gets a surprise visit for his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). He is happy to see his daughter, but there is obviously something wrong with her – something he cannot ignore when she starts throwing up blood. He rushes her to the door, and waiting for them is a car, and a man with a shotgun yells out “Craven” and guns her down brutally. Everyone assumes that the shot was meant for Thomas – a cop would have enemies – but there are no viable suspects. Craven starts investigating the murder himself, and he doesn’t like what he finds. All roads lead by to Northmoor, the chemical company that Emma worked for before her death.

I won’t say anything else about the plot, because one of the pleasures of the movie is to watch everything unfold, the web of the conspiracy getting bigger and bigger. Gibson is excellent in his first acting role in a few years – proving that when it comes to action movies like this, he can still pull it off. Yes, his Boston accent is a little inconsistent at times, but the heart of the performance – his anger and pain about the death of his daughter, he does very well. He is supported by an excellent cast as well. I especially liked Danny Huston as the slimy CEO of his daughter’s company. Huston seems to have inherited his father’s ability to play evil, untrustworthy men, and he plays a great one here. Even better is Ray Winstone as the mysterious Jedburgh, a fixer brought in by the higher ups to try and conceal what exactly happened. He shows up at Craven’s door to have a talk with him, but it doesn’t go the way we expect it to. Jedburgh has been doing this for years, but just this once it seems, he is willing to stand aside and give the little guy a chance. If it didn’t, then most likely Craven would never be able to put the pieces together.

The movie is directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), who also directed the original BBC series 25 years ago. I missed the extra detail that the series was able to provide to the story. The extra twists, yes, but mainly the extra bits of character development that were afforded each character. Of course, considering that this movie is less than a third of the running time of the original series, cuts are necessary and to be expected. What writers William Monahan and Andrew Bovell do is distill the story down to its essentials, and craft a very interesting little thriller. It is intelligent for almost its entire running time – suspenseful, thought provoking and well detailed. The film ends with not just one, but two shootouts, and yet for once, the shootouts appear to be necessary. Considering how far we have seen the corruption spread over the course of the movie, perhaps the only logical thing to do is to pick up a gun and start shooting.

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