At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Edge of Darkness “2010”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Conspiracy Action Thriller/ Stars: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Shawn Roberts, David Aaron Baker, Jay O. Sanders, Caterina Scorsone, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Christy Scott Cashman, Denis O’Hare, Damian Young, Peter Hermann, Rick Avery, Tom Kemp, Frank Grillo, Peter Epstein, Wayne Duvall, Paul Sparks, Frank L. Ridley, Gabriella Popa/ Runtime: 117 minutes

I think it’s safe to say that by being in equal amounts loud, delightfully over the top, take no prisoners, and yet also quite riveting in its own way, film helmer Pierre Morel’s Taken was a film that arrived in the long gone year of 2008 and managed to surprise quite a few people in how it managed to deliver our way a quite appetizing slice of cinematic pie that was actually a fun quick little sit that, despite ourselves, we simply just could not get enough of. Yet with that being said, we really need to face the facts here everyone. The main one of those being that even though Taken had at least one line which has been parodied and said relentlessly in the decade-plus since its release and although it was quite enjoyable seeing Liam Neeson turn kick-butt action hero to save his on-screen daughter from a vicious gang of kidnappers, it wasn’t as revolutionary as everyone made it out to be. Rather, it was just a very well-made movie plain and simple. To that end, it should be noted that film helmer Martin Campbell’s 2010 cop thriller Edge of Darkness is a different slice of cinematic pie altogether. Oh don’t get me wrong: the trailer for this film does use every chance it is given to show off every single aspect of the subgenre of cinema known as the revenge thriller that this film possesses, but I urge you to not let that fool you. Indeed Edge of Darkness is most assuredly not Gibson’s comeback to the world of action nor is it a dynamic thriller filled to the brim with guns, bullets, and cars chasing one another in high-speed pursuits. Instead this movie is more like one that Gibson made with film helmer Ron Howard in the 90s called Ransom in that this is actually a thought-provoking, character-based, slow burn thriller that also manages to possess a duo of electric performances and a narrative that is accessible if not one you can predict the various twists and turns in with ease. At the same time it is also unfortunately knocked down a peg by genre tropes, subtext that seems more like a sermon, and layered with political intrigue that really takes you out of the movie at points. Indeed is this movie a better film than Taken? Yes and No. However is it still worth sitting down and giving a proverbial view to every now and then? Oh absolutely and without question. Indeed, thanks in large part due to the skilled work done by its helmer and a pair of dynamic performances from Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone, Edge of Darkness might not be the movie you were expecting Mel’s first movie in 8 years at the time to be, but it is still one pitch black and quite riveting slice of cinematic pie that flaws and all is worth taking in and unraveling time and time again.

The plot is as follows: An adaptation of the 1985, also helmed by Campbell incidentally, BBC miniseries, Edge of Darkness tells us the story of a respected cop in the city of Boston by the name of Thomas Craven and his daughter Emma, a young career-focused type who, when our story begins, has come home for a visit. Suffice it to say that since their bond is as perfect as can be we know something bad is about to happen and the fact that her personal life is a total enigma (including a mystery boyfriend and some puzzling health issues) means something is definitely up. Yet when our father-daughter duo are attacked at their front door and Emma is gunned down with a shotgun at close range, everyone immediately comes to the conclusion that it Thomas who was the one our mystery shooter was gunning for. Suffice it to say it should come as no surprise to learn that our intrepid cop hero isn’t so sure and decides to embark on his own personal mission for both answers and justice. A mission that soon enough begins to see him start unraveling a thread that involves his daughter, her boyfriend, a research think tank known as Northmoor which was incidentally the place Emma was working, her slimy boss Jack Bennett, a U.S senator with a few secrets of his own, a middleman of sorts by the name of Jedburgh and a significant conspiracy that soon places our hero right in the middle of a scandal that has bumped off quite a few people and that he and he alone might be able to expose….

Now I would just like to point out that if it felt that I was being perhaps a bit too unfairly critical in my opening paragraph to this slice of cinematic pie, then I would just like to say that maybe my main reason for doing so was because of the fact that there are elements to the film that are actually fairly well-done. This of course starts with lead actor Mel Gibson who, on a level that not a lot of actors can compete, is just effortlessly talented when it comes to occupying your interest in a frame. Indeed be they shown to us from a far or what feels like a couple feet from the camera that is filming him, Gibson’s eyes are downright magnetic, his dialogue delivery potent and on-point, and his low-key yet still quite emotional bond to this character downright realistic to the point that he is able to make everything his character discovers that much more heartwrenching.  We also get terrific work from Ray Winstone as mystery man Jedburgh though it is worth noting that a) it’s a co-starring role, and b) his way of acting might not be the same as Gibson’s, but by no means is it less potent. Indeed whereas Mel is the kind of man who is able to freeze his face into a near-religious devotion of showing us overwhelming amounts of sadness and iron-clad resolve in equal measure, Winstone is allowed to smile, poke fun, intimidate, and tap-dance around honesty as if it were a burning fire that he would rather not touch all the way. Indeed there are moments where Winstone manages to just pull this movie right out from under Gibson through and through as not only is he a true scene-thief, but he also makes a strong argument that his character is the one we should be following. Suffice it to say then that when Gibson and Winstone are on screen together, this movie manages to become something truly special and downright magnetic. I mean don’t get me wrong dear reader: Danny Huston and Jay O. Sanders do great work as usual, Shawn Roberts does capable work, and Bojana Novakovic is downright terrific in her tiny yet integral part. It’s just that, out of everyone involved, it seems like Gibson and Winstone are the only ones who are able to elevate this film to another level altogether.

Suffice it to say then that had this film helmer’s simply decided to make this slice of cinematic pie a riveting analysis of both Craven and Jedburgh then I feel that Edge of Darkness would have been a lot more potent to say nothing of timely as well. Unfortunately Campbell instead chooses to immerse this movie in exhausted aspects, flimsy theatrics, villainy that seems more in place in a latter-Pierce Brosnan 007 film, and a conspiracy chain we’ve all seen a million times before. It’s kind of sad really. I mean this movie’s dynamic screenwriting duo of William Monahan and Andrew Bovell do show that they have a talent for crafting pretty heavy dialogue and their tempo, though guilty of entering hurry and wait shenanigans in this movie’s 3rd act, does permit Campbell to really stockpile quite the amount of momentum as this slice of cinematic pie slithers along. In fact had the helmer and screenwriters abandoned this movie’s snails-crawl narrative and barely sketched cast of characters at the side of the road, I feel they honestly could have produced a riveting and well-designed analysis on losing a child, being driven to seek vengeance, what is truth that is genuine and truth that is created, and the stark cold reality of political dishonesty. Alas, this film is completely filled to the brim with ideas that are all competing with one another instead of working together as they ought to be and as such none are given the amount of attention they deserve. I mean it’s not that this film is just inconsistent in a lot of ways, it’s also just exhausting pure and simple. Eh if nothing else Gibson and Winstone manage to keep things going, our dynamic screenwriting duo manage to do the best that they can, and film helmer Campbell, despite all my issues, did manage to keep me intrigued and entertained so I guess that’s something.

All in all I think it is safe to say that Edge of Darkness was, when I first saw it, most assuredly not the Taken with Martin Riggs rather than Qui-Gon Jinn slice of cinematic pie that I was thinking it would be. With that being said though, that isn’t necessarily the worst thing that could ever happen to the world of cinema as a whole. Yes it is both way too simple and way too complicated for its own good, but this is still a fairly solid entry in the subgenre of movie magic known as the vengeance seeking thriller that manages to get the job done and entertain even if not everyone will want to take the ride. For those of you do however, I think you will find that between the dynamic performances given in this by Gibson and Winstone as well as wonderful work by scribe William Monahan and terrific helmsmanship by Martin Campbell, Edge of Darkness “2010” will manage to prove itself to you that it really truly is one slice of cinematic pie that is most assuredly worth engaging in time and time again. On a scale of 1-5 I give Edge of Darkness “2010” a solid 3.5 out of 5.