Thomas Craven is a man of impulse and no consequence. Your daughter being shot to death would do that to you. Especially if she was standing beside you on the front porch. So begins Mel Gibson’s first acting appearance since 2002, as a father seeking revenge (or answers) for his daughter’s death. As the second adaptation of a BBC series this summer (following January’s In The Loop), Edge Of Darkness holds a mix of British and American filmmaking, but the merger fails to deliver.
The film has a lot to hold up to, being based on what’s widely considered by critics and fans alike as one of Britain’s most important television dramas. Originally made in the politically heavy Thatcher era of the mid-‘80s, the emerging plot of nuclear research plant Northmoor and their internal activities is still relevant in the post-9/11 world. After Emma’s (Bojana Novakovic) death, Thomas (Gibson) uses all of his cop credentials to find out why his daughter, an employee of Northmoor, was a target. Of course, being a cop gives you an advantage into accessing files and destroying evidence. But from here it already becomes as tedious as he gets frustrated – very. It becomes more uneven as it goes on, with the introduction of key characters seemingly pointless. Because Gibson’s forced to run a one-man show, it’s only the odd threat to him that shakes Edge Of Darkness up to give it any lasting life.
To be fair, the plot is a good concept. And no doubt, with the cut from TV to film pieces will go missing. But that’s the risk you take with spin-off adaptations, and it’s not always worth it. The story is dragged out but in the wrong places; you aren’t given enough to care about anyone but Craven and he’s the most unstable of the lot. Although the home video sequences and imagined conversations with Emma create a bit of sympathy and concern, it counts for nothing when we see his reckless actions. And they get more extravagant and ‘tough’ as it goes on. The mix of British and American-style filmmaking seems to separate particular scenes in the film, which is a concern – a mix of Hollywood-style car chases compared with more grittier and personal close-up confrontations. It gives the film a mismatched feel that unsettles you as you watch; really, you need one or the other. Needless to say, this doesn’t bode well for the co-production. It’s set in America with all but one Englishman, Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), who is arguably thrown in there for the heck of it – so you could also argue that it’s Hollywood with English influence. Any laughs you may possess will likely come off Winstone’s sarcasm as Jedburgh but this film isn’t meant to be a happy one. It’s not meant to be a sad one either, so it really stands neither here nor there.
Mel Gibson’s strong enough in his acting return and Danny Huston (as Northmoor boss Jack Bennett) presents the best threat as the villain. The international flavour continues through Aussie Bojana Novakovic as Emma and Kiwi director Martin Campbell, who also directed the BBC series. Campbell struggles to keep the film tight as the plots dips into the uninteresting; his world of production can’t help him save it, which disappoints. Edge Of Darkness needed more fleshing out on more integral points – not the introduction of characters we don’t have time to care about before they die. Too many of those make for a monotonous film – as does most of the bloodshed throughout.
The attempt at grittiness comes off soft as a ‘half-Hollywood’ film. Gibson’s good but it falls off the edge into darkness and doesn’t return.
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