Thursday, January 28, 2010

Edge of Darkness Review

It’s a seemingly harmless, touching moment. An aging father and his grown daughter reuniting. The too seem to love each other very much, making the visual all the more cookie cutter for a film…until the daughter is on the receiving end from the blast of a shotgun at close range on the front porch. The act is so jarringly violent in contrast to the tenderness we had seen before that you know they’ve got you for the duration. With Mel Gibson at the wheel, you know its time to buckle up.

Edge of Darkness is the tale of what comes next. The grizzled police detective sets off to find his daughter’s killers, using every dirty trick and professional skill he’s picked up and honed over the years to uncover a trail when it seems there was none. Gibson plays the part with no shortage of excellence. In one scene, you can see him appear robotic from the shock of his daughter’s death but still driven to justice. A second later, as he appeals to her contacts for information, he looks on the verge of emotional collapse and then, in an instant, he shoves that pain deep down and terrorizes someone for the clues he needs. It is insanity, and breathtaking to watch. This is rip your heart out material that allows you to cheer every time Mel sticks a gun up against someone’s head, turning them into a quivering mess. Even when the bad guys try to strong arm him, you know you are mere moments away from someone getting a beat down. SATISFACTION!!

Gibson and Winstone steal the entire movie, with wit and charm, excellent chemistry and timing and a twinkle in their eye for their impending, messy works. All around them, you’ll be astonished by the top notch acting from every single character they come across…from the despicable corporate scum to the nervous cop in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is this amazing display that saves the film from the plot holes and weak writing that could have made this a confusing collection of bloody kills and screaming.

My first gripe will be an obvious one. From the trailer, you know Gibson’s character Craven is going to uncover some conspiracy that leads to his daughter’s ultimate silence. As soon as he began to catch on to the real story, don’t you think his car would have blown up? We do not get that moment where he narrowly avoids death as some beat cop starts his vehicle for him. Instead, he’s chased by two of the most inept killers these kinds of movies could conjure. You could argue that Craven is just that good…or you could say the writing falls flat. Countless times, Craven should be dead, but is left to continue his investigation. Further viewing may have you yelling at the screen like a child watching Dora the Explorer. Gibson would turn to the screen and say.. “Do YOU know what killed my daughter?” We scream “IT’S OVER THERE!!” Gibson then gingerly goes through the paces of “uncovering” the clue we’d caught onto 10 minutes ago and then wonder why he isn’t getting his cop buddies to help. Inconsistencies abound, plot holes turn into gaping chasms and the film wraps up in the most convenient ways possible. If you are a stickler for logical, coherent story telling, this movie may drive you mad.

At the end of the 117 minutes, the director has taken you through the paces at break neck speed with amazing acting all around, and that’s enough to hold you tight and leave you smiling. As your attention is firmly clamped down, you are inundated with some shockingly violent moments that are akin to someone sneaking up next to you and screaming in your ear. You'll be on the edge of your seat, and then jumping out of it! Your heart will break one minute and you’ll cheer the next as Gibson serves up deliciously satisfying vengeance. It seems to be the case lately that weak scripts are saved by the fun factor of the content and those who pull it off with almost magical expertise. It’s a glamour, to be sure, but isn’t that what movie making should be? While I ache for some amazing, original writing, I suppose I can be content with the occasional mis-step amid the doldrums of drek flanked on either side (AKA most of the rest of the films.) Edge of Darkness surely has it’s flaws, but when your cast gives 110 percent and the director and cinematographer sync up to take you on the wildest ride possible, you can’t lose.

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