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In a complete reversal of the plot of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the very public sins and foibles of the once-universally beloved star, Mel Gibson are clearly marked across his face.  The stress of Gibsonís recent self-perpetuated travails have made for one haggard-looking 53-year-old man.  It is jarring when one considers Gibson was quite rightly voted the sexiest man alive in his prime; the rare beauty from films like 1984ís The Bounty and the admirable handsomeness he maintained through the entire Lethal Weapon series and in later films like 2000ís The Patriot.  As he takes on his first starring role since his tabloidtastic errors (- His first acting gig since a stint on his failed TV production Complete Savages in 2004-05), maybe itís easier for a potentially contentious public to face this Gibson of the thinning salt and pepper hair and lines on his face that are a mapmakerís dream.

Edge of Darkness is a would-be noir thriller about a man and his child.  Tommy Craven has raised a smart, loving daughter in Emma, a young woman with all the gumption and determined sense of right and wrong as dear old dad.  Itís the sudden and violent loss of his adored girl that forces Craven to investigate some of his daughterís hidden deeds; a murky search that will bring him over his head against the rich and powerful and the shadowy government forces they have at their command.

Gibson positions himself well, playing a single father to an adult child.  The actorís startling transformation to older age suits Tommy Craven, the crusty but honest cop.  Cravenís only weakness is his kid and weíre given some actual heartrending moments where Gibson reminds us that he was always a fine actor with range.  That range and more are needed because Edge of Darkness is so punctuated with pacing problems and a complete lack of any momentum that the only thing to hold on to are the performances by Gibson and costar Ray Winstone.  There are gasp-worthy moments of violence meant to shock the audience into attendance that donít occur again for ages and scenes of dramatic tension or emotion are fleeting. Still, the precious few snappy interactions between Gibson and Winstone are the filmís best and make the audience yearn for so much more.  With the arrival of government ninja Winstone, the film shows some wry gallows humour in the face of imminent demise which Gibson excels at, but isnít savvy enough to maintain it.  Although Gibsonís Bahston accent is pretty good for an occasional laugh: One scene stands out with Gibson revving up his well-worn, patented borderline-crazy intensity as Craven accosts a bad guy; if you close your eyes you can hear Bugs Bunnyís voice coming out of the character.  (The combination of Gibsonís grizzled appearance, long khaki trenchcoat and determined investigation could just as easily put one in the mind of another famous accented fellow, Peter Falk as Columbo.)  The entire plot seems like an overburdened excuse; something to do with an evil rich guy making illegal nuclear weapons.  Weíre told more than once that the movieís big bad is insane, but thereís so little character development that save for one inappropriate line early on, youíre just going to have to take the actorís word for it.  Unable to commit to being either a full-on drama or action film, weíre given frustrating glimpses of real potential for each at varying times, yet director Martin Campbell never sticks with either choice long enough to make an impact.  The movie doesnít know what it wants to be and in its dithering, Edge of Darkness winds up being not much of anything. 

Thereís almost an inevitable voyeuristic compulsion to connect some of the dialog in Edge of Darkness to Gibsonís famous troubles and it seems like heís up for whatever.  From the lectures about being a good family man to Cravenís inexplicable knowledge of Latin and vehement prayers over his fallen child, Gibson knows much of the audience will come to see this with reticence or at least an eye to gossip, and doesnít care. Unfortunately, while Edge of Darkness has its moments of tension and excitement, it does so in so many fits and starts that it never comes together cohesively to make a potboiler palatable enough to reinstate the publicís belief in Gibson as a star.  What Edge of Darkness does is pique their interest to see what this stripped down and laid bare version of Gibson could achieve given better material.



~ The Lady Miz Diva

January 27th, 2010





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