Let’s deal with the elephant in the room right away: I wasn’t sure how I would respond to seeing Mel Gibson on screen for the first time since his public embarrassments and utterances. Like many of you, I have felt ever since queasy about the man. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to like his new starring vehicle. But minutes into Edge of Darkness I forgot about all that; I became absorbed in the story and found myself rooting for Gibson’s character, a Boston police detective who’ll stop at nothing to figure out who murdered his daughter—right in front of his eyes—and, just as important, why.
Based on an award winning BBC miniseries written by the late Troy Kennedy Martin, and adapted by William Monahan, who scripted another Boston-based crime saga, The Departed, Edge of Darkness is a crackling conspiracy thriller crossed with a personal-revenge story. The result is a heady mixture that allows the film to be intelligent, even as it integrates pulse-pounding, violent action sequences into the proceedings. It makes good use of its Boston setting without parroting what other high quality films have done in recent years.
This film could never be mistaken for Death Wish, but it does offer a somewhat larger-than-life protagonist who defies the odds to avenge his daughter’s brutal slaying. That kind of character requires a muscular, charismatic movie star to be convincing; enter Mel Gibson. He is perfectly cast here, and has lost none of his ability to command the screen.
Ray Winstone adds his trademark menace, and a welcome touch of dark humor, to a key supporting role as a high-level hit man. At first I thought the casting of Danny Huston, as a diffident corporate villain, was too obvious, but Huston imbues the character with color and shading I didn’t anticipate.
Edge of Darkness has the impact of a punch to the gut; it delivers the goods, from start to finish, and adds another success to director Martin Campbell’s resume, which includes the terrific Casino Royale (2006) and the miniseries on which this film is based.
I may have strong feelings about Mel Gibson in “real life,” but I can’t deny his effectiveness onscreen in this terrific new action-thriller.