A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Welcome Back Mel, You’ve Been Missed

In action, drama on January 27, 2010 at 4:25 pm

There has been talk about how the trailers for EDGE OF DARKNESS – Mel Gibson’s return to acting since 2004, where he had a small part in Robert Downey, Jr.’s THE SINGING DETECTIVE; and well that certain incident that we all remember – have been misleading people. And it’s true, though it’s not for making people think there’s more action than is actually in the movie (which actually is kind of true), but just in how dark and mean the movie is.

Gibson stars as Tom Craven, a cop for the Boston PD, and a man who really only has his daughter as a connection to the outside world. We’re not given much more back-story on anyone in the movie, other than Craven was in a heavy artillery platoon in the military; but there’s nothing about what kind of cop he is, what happened to Mrs. Craven, or even why he quit drinking – other than to make a meta comment on the actor himself, perhaps. Fortunately, none of that matters, because all this story cares about is what’s happening now.

The movie starts with Craven picking up his daughter at the train station. And it’s only five minutes into the movie that we discover that the story isn’t quite going to go where we thought it was. Needless to say, if you’ve seen the trailer or heard anything about the movie, you know that the daughter gets killed; and it’s mistakenly assumed that the target was meant to be Craven – though he never seems to buy into that for a second. What happens from there is a detective story, mixed with political thriller; but really it’s just a father out for revenge. It’s gritty, hard-biting, and very graphic.

Based off a UK television series, Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE) and writer William Monahan (THE DEPARTED) bring this movie to life, and give it all the highs of both of their most recent high-profile jobs. This movie has the action set pieces – a couple car chases, like ROYALE, and some gun battles and tension like DEPARTED. The novie is slick, it looks beautiful – the opening scene is of a beautiful, serene lake with a full moon hovering above; then three dead bodies pop-up from underwater. And that sets the tone for the whole movie. There’s also another thread running throughout the movie, that really caught me off-guard, but is a nice addition. I can see how it worked in the series, and it’s effective here. (No, I’m not spoiling it here.) But, the best thing about the movie, other than the acting, is how it really is a conventional murder/mystery, thriller, but manages to keep you on your toes. Never quite going the direction you think it will, or playing out what could be cliched in the way hundreds of other movies do it. With one exception, and it’s a nearly useless set-piece towards the end, that kind of seemed like a “super-villain” move to make, in an otherwise fairly realistic plot.

The casting is pretty fantastic using actors in parts that they’re easily identifiable with. Danny Huston as the corrupted business man. Who in one scene manages to make you hate him to the fiber of his being, just with a simple question. Denis O’Hare (DUPLICITY, THE PROPOSAL) is perfect in the role that he seems content to continue playing (and so far I’m not complaining); that of a snotty suit, who is just looking to solve whatever issue is at hand. Although here, while still merciless, he seems to show some regard to families of dead people in one particular moment – if not for sympathy, but just in that it causes more of a mess to have people killed). Bojana Novakovic – who was most recently seen in DRAG ME TO HELL, for just a moment – plays Craven’s daughter. And despite her only being alive in the movie for just a few moments, her presence is felt throughout (well, her and the younger version of the character played by Gabrielle Popa).

Then there’s the two shining stars of the movie. Ray Winstone, as Jedburgh; a mysterious UK-er, who works in Washington DC, and seems to be some sort of illicit bagman (maybe that’s saying that same thing twice). He shows up repeatedly throughout the movie, and is always ambiguous as to which side he’s playing on. As he states in the trailer, “he’s usually the man keeping you from connecting A to B.” But, in the case of Craven, who he seems to develop a kinship with, he’s willing to see it played out before making a decision. But, he’s awesome in the role – in the original series it was flipped, as the story took place in London, and the Jedburgh there was played by American Joe Don Baker (WALKING TALL, Scorsese’s CAPE FEAR as the Pepto-swilling PI) – and has an amazing final scene.

Last, but certainly not least is Gibson. He’s in true, form here. PAYBACK and LETHAL WEAPON form – one for the bleak outlook on life, the other for the amazing action performance. He looks fantastic, is completely believable as this character – even if there are moments where the Boston accent slips a little. But, with small glimpses of the funny little things that Gibson is known for – like repeatedly asking for a Ginger Ale, or strange colloquialisms – which sadly I can’t remember at the moment – but some truly great lines like the heavy one from the trailer about “You had better decide whether you’re hangin’ on the cross, or bangin’ in the nails.” This is Mel Gibson, actor and action star, and a welcome respite from the skinny, muscle-laden boys of today’s action stars. Hopefully, with the upcoming, HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION, we’ll get to see more of this Mel, and as much as I love him; less of the comedic one – which will be making an appearance later this year in THE BEAVER.

So, definitely check out EDGE OF DARKNESS. If you liked STATE OF PLAY, THE DEPARTED, the LETHAL WEAPON movies, or even revenge thrillers like TAKEN and PAYBACK; you’re bound to really like this movie.

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  1. Did that trailer give away too much ? I have a horrible feeling I won’t be surprised by any of the set pieces in this film or how Mel resolves the plot.

    Interesting last line in the trailer, too – very “cross” and right up his alley, I believe….

    • No, definitely not. It did show most of the action set-pieces, but there’s always a spin to each one, that still makes the movie plenty surprising. Yeah, the last line is very fitting.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

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