In Theaters: Edge of Darkness
If it seems like the nuclear weapons scandal powering the densely plotted narrative of Edge of Darkness has been airlifted straight out of the '80s, it's because it kind of was: Extracted from a 1985, six-part British miniseries, the film's indictment of the enmeshed interests of private and public sectors is both topical and pleasingly retro. And yet in this version the nuclear intrigue, which contained and safely detonated the British audience's fears about unregulated proliferation and corporate mendacity (as Silkwood did on this side of the pond in 1983), threatens to add an awkward dose of sci-fi fantasia (retaining that moldy title was the first mistake) to an otherwise flatfooted but surprisingly agile trenchcoat thriller.
Mel Gibson makes his return to acting after a seven-year absence spent directing and making a series of major public bloopers. As Thomas Craven, a Boston detective welcoming his 24-year-old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) home for a visit, Gibson drops the first of a series of lines that fizz with unwanted, real-life resonance: "Well who says I don't have a honey stashed away somewhere?" he replies, after Emma deduces he's loveless again and still. Gibson the humbled, good old dad might be a stretch for viewers whose last memory of his face was that glassy-eyed, post-epithet mug shot; luckily Emma, suffering a bad case of the homecoming pukes, is blown away by a masked stranger on Craven's doorstep only a few minutes into the film. Soon enough Mel the Avenger rises to collect the scalps of all comers; cover your own if you're feeling stingy, because he just might get to you too.
Directed by Martin Campbell (_Casino Royale_), Darkness moves at a steady, confident clip, and his poised but roving camera loyally follows and frames Craven (there are only one or two scenes without Gibson) as he attempts to piece together just what his daughter was up to in her capacity at a nuclear R&D corporation called North Moor, and who would have wanted her dead. Operating under the cover of the widespread assumption that the assassin's blast was meant for him, Craven begins searching through his daughter's things, her apartment, and her boyfriend's force field of paranoia. William Monahan (The Departed) and Andrew Bovell's script trips over itself to sow a fistful of plot seeds that the viewer often has to work to keep straight; occasionally the actors, almost all of them speaking in Boston accents that suffer from various degrees of contrivance, seem to swallow or gurgle what turn out to be key words -- sound design can in fact err on the side of authenticity.
Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a shady government operative contracted to surveil Craven's one-man mission, also works his scary, low-talking cockney bit within an inch of its intelligibility. During his two scenes with Gibson, who raises his voice a register to affect a working-class Boston whine, the men exemplify the best and worst impulses of the script. "Payback for the tea party," Jedburgh mutters when Craven sites him for drinking in public ("Everything's illegal in Massachusetts" is a throwaway line that the writers liked so much they used it twice), before going on to connect a random F. Scott Fitzgerald quote about artists to the predicament his empathy for Craven has put him in.
Pages: 1 2