Monday, 1 February 2010

Today's Viewing & Review: Edge Of Darkness

Edge Of Darkness

Another review; another proviso. I’ve never seen the 80s telly series this is based on so I can’t say how it compares. What I can say is that it feels like this a film of the 80s. There’s such an overriding sense of the old-fashioned as to make it feel dated. I thought they stopped making films like this. This is very much a hard-bitten, investigative revenge thriller and there’s little concession to modern techniques or technology.

This is Mel Gibson’s first leading film role in seven years and it feels good, nay right, to have him back. Here he’s the grieving father using his honed cop instincts to dig deeper into the circumstances surrounding his daughter’s death. It’s a solid, if unremarkable, performance although the distinctive Boston drawl is nailed perfectly. The story itself isn’t much cop. It’s a variation on the corporate corruption theme you’ve seen a thousand times before, with little to distinguish it from them.

At times there’s a very real danger of the film becoming a hackneyed slog. Danny Huston’s slimy CEO is hugely under-developed and any scene involving him, his cohorts or any politicos risks slipping into triteness. One particular Machiavellian scene underneath a bridge is practically Bond villain-camp. There’s a criminal overuse of a number of cheap emotional tricks. Not only is the old ‘childhood camcorder footage’ device wheeled out but it’s topped in the cloying histrionics stakes by the ‘voice from beyond the grave’ and ghostly visions of the deceased.

In stark contrast to the nauseating posthumous father/daughter scenes, when it’s good it’s very good. The underplayed tête-à-têtes between Mel and an over-egged shadowy Cockney 'fixer' (played, unsurprisingly, by Ray Winstone) are fun to watch, both characters never quite getting past their trust issues. Winstone’s character is the genre-staple, quintessential antagonist working the greys. We’re never quite sure which side they’re on. Seeing Mad Mel tearing up the screen again constitutes the majority of the films finer, and more intense, moments. When the film goes for it, it doesn’t hold back.

At times it’s like director Martin Campbell (learning no lessons from his rebooting of another dated entity) is following a checklist; rogue detective working outside the law (while wearing dirty mac), red herrings, assassinations of the most obvious candidates, evasive manoeuvres to avoid being tailed. It’s got them all in abundance.

As far as Boston-set thrillers go, it paces a similar patch to the works of Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) but never with the same degree of subtlety. Although ‘The Artist Formerly Most Likely To Call You Sugar Tits’ just about keeps it afloat, it soon pales and leaves you wishing his comeback was more impactful. I might just have to see how Bob Peck played it in the era which suited it best.


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