If you want to reboot a legend, Martin Campbell is the man to call, or at least he was. The New Zealand director reignited the James Bond franchise on two separate occasions; first with 1995’s GoldenEye (starring Pierce Brosnan) and again in 2006 with Casino Royale (introducing Daniel Craig). You could say that Campbell has an uncanny knack for re-establishing hard-drinking, womanising and somewhat dated screen legends. Therefore, he’s the perfect choice to helm Edge of Darkness, which features Mel Gibson’s first acting foray in seven years (I promise, that will be the one and only joke directed at Gibson’s indiscretions).
Gibson’s return to the screen has been something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Although I enjoy his work as a director (Apocalypto is a modern action classic), he has always been a charming and fascinating screen presence. I genuinely missed Gibson, who was last seen in 2002’s Signs. So, the news that he would be teaming up with Campbell and screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) for a project based on the critically acclaimed British mini-series Edge of Darkness almost sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately, the final product turned out to be as limp as a man with one leg slightly shorter than the other, walking down a rickety staircase. You’ll forgive me for that terrible analogy. But this movie was really boring, and my imagination is working overdrive to at least make this review sound interesting.
Gibson stars as detective Tom Craven, whose daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) has returned home to Boston under vague circumstances. Craven picks her up from the train station and notices immediately that his daughter seems a little off, but she tells him not to worry. He asks how her job is, and she says that she enjoys working for the mysterious company Northmoor, but resents being little more than a receptionist. Call it Daddy’s intuition, but he can tell she’s hiding something. He doesn’t have to wait long to find his suspicions proven true. Within moments, Emma’s nose begins to bleed profusely, and she starts to panic, as if she knows exactly why this is happening. As Craven pulls her out the door and prepares to take her to the emergency room, a gunman assassinates Emma. This opening sequence is the best part of the whole film; Gibson and Novakovic’s relationship feels genuine, and Campbell’s handle on the tension is expert.
Following Emma’s death however, the film starts to fall apart. Craven vows to avenge his daughter’s death, as all movie dads must do. He investigates the various suspects in Emma’s life, including her boss (Danny Huston) and boyfriend (Shawn Roberts). Meanwhile, a CIA officer (Ray Winstone) is sent by the not-so-mysterious guilty party to cover up Emma’s murder. Now, if only that pesky Thomas Craven didn’t keep getting in the way!
For what it’s worth, Gibson is solid in the lead. However, not even his charm can save Edge of Darkness. As the film hobbles to its inevitable finale, it becomes more and more apparent that there is little here for any viewer to enjoy. The cast, all fine actors, are given little to work with; their roles are merely to explain plot points to one another. The action is non-existent. The so-called twists are about as surprising as being slapped in the face by the biggest hands in the world (again, I apologise for the laborious analogy – I’m reaching here). Monahan mistakes rambling exposition for captivating back-and-forth and Campbell doesn’t help any by making the film as drab and turgidly paced as possible.
The only reason for seeing the movie is for the occasionally beautifully inspired moments that emerge from the talented cast. They include the great character actors Jay O. Sanders, Denis O’Hare, Danny Huston and Ray Winstone (although, in Winstone’s case, I don’t know if he qualifies as a character actor considering he always plays the same basic role). Their little touches give the film brief moments of life, but not even they can escape the stifling matter-of-factness of their expository dialogue. Eventually, the only pleasure comes from evaluating each of their Bostonian accents (Gibson’s is the worst FYI).
In one of the film’s only semi-intense moments, it has the lazy gall to commit one of the cardinal sins of cheap shock cinema; a character steps into the middle of the road and is suddenly sideswiped by an oncoming car (which has apparently arrived in silence, only making a noise when it drives into frame). Seriously people, it is 2010, and filmmakers are still pulling this old trick out of the book? They might as well have included a scene in which Gibson walks into a party, when suddenly the record scratches and the music stops.