Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Edge of Darkness
Edge of Darkness (2010) **1/2
Directed by Martin Campbell
Edge of Darkness (2010)- a. gov't conspiracy thriller b. grieving father's descent into madness c. Ridiculous pablum --Answer- C. **1/2 of 5
I'm going out on a limb a little bit here by trying to incorporate Mel Gibson's recent actions into my review of Edge of Darkness, which might just be Gibson's last successful film if he's not able to get over the stigma of his frighteningly raging phone messages left on his girlfriend's answering machine. In the center of this admittedly dumb thriller is a performance so aloof and out of touch with reality that it ought to be singled out as one of the film's major flaws.
Gibson plays a Boston detective whose adult daughter is shot dead on his front porch with him standing beside her. At first, everyone presumes that the bullet was meant for the cop and not the daughter, but as clues unravel, it becomes increasingly clear that there's something illegal and dangerous going on by a private company in charge of maintaining the government's nuclear stockpile, and the cover-up leads back to a Massachusetts senator. The company isn't called Halliburton, but it might as well have been.
Two conflicts are at the center of the film. First is the mystery over who killed the daughter and the conspiracy that's connected. Second, and apparently more importantly, is Gibson's character's attempt to stay sane in order to complete the investigation. Supposedly, the entire time, he's about to be so overcome with rage that there's no telling what he will do, but he knows that he must suppress the darkness in order to bring justice to his daughter's killers.
This leads back to my initial desire to look at Gibson's real-life troubles. The tension between sanity and insanity that was intended to come across through Gibson's performance doesn't at all. There's a turning point in the film where, let's just say, Gibson's character isn't able to keep it together, and sadly, this blow-up feels right out of left field. Despite a few times where other characters tell him that he's going to crack, and despite a handful of hallucinations of his daughter which could very well be interpreted as memories and not psychosis, there's no indication that this cop is going to turn out the way he does. This flaw falls square on Gibson's shoulders. Perhaps he's so out of touch with reality himself that he's not able to inhabit a real character anymore. During the moments of histrionics when Gibson shouts or threatens, he's fun to watch, but during the moments of quiet introspection and suppressed grief, he almost doesn't register as having any humanity whatsoever. He's a shell of a character on screen, and perhaps one can point to Gibson's real-life psychological disconnects for answers.
Yet, even if Jimmy Stewart were alive and giving his career best performance in the lead role, Edge of Darkness would still be watchable garbage. There are so many plot details that are downright ludicrous that it ultimately becomes impossible to truly invest in the mystery on screen. First of all, the police department lets the cop lead the investigation over his daughter's murder, which is of course a defense attorney's dream scenario. Second, people keep getting killed, though the cop is the biggest threat to everyone. He's allowed to live and move around freely because otherwise there would be no movie. Third, the head of the company shares classified information with the cop which only makes things worse for his own cover-up. This same scene ends with that character asking the cop a truly asinine question for no other reason that to have Gibson point a gun in his face and then ask him the same question.
Ray Winstone has a lot of fun playing an unbelievable character with his own unbelievable issues, and the film is convoluted enough to force the viewer to exert a bit of mental energy to keep up, but not smart enough to be intellectually satisfying. Edge of Darkness is certainly compelling enough to pass the time, and the cop's ultimate unspooling does pack a punch. Yet, for all its adequacies, this is still a really dumb film with a lead performance by a man who's perhaps lost touch with humanity to such a degree that he simply ought not to act anymore.