Edge of Darkness

At one point in the new Mel Gibson movie “Edge of Darkness” some one says, “Make it so convoluted that everyone’s got a theory.  No one has the facts.”  Rarely has a movie character so accurately described my feelings about a movie as I was watching it.  While I ultimately understood the destination to which “Edge of Darkness” brought me, it just was not much fun getting there.

“Edge of Darkness” is a conspiracy thriller that has been condensed and “Americanized” from a 1985 British TV mini-series.  One can only guess that something was lost in translation.  Gibson plays Massachusetts Detective Thomas Craven who wants to find out who shot his daughter to death in front of him and why.  As he peels back the layers of the onion he gets deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that reaches to high corporate levels while the issue of who did what becomes muddled.  While the lack of clarity seems to be part of the point, for me difficulty following a story means my engagement with what is happening is weakened.  After a while I just took it on faith that Craven is, after all, Mel Gibson, which means that he is a tough cop who ignores protocol and does things his own way.

The obvious question in a movie like this is if the high level conspiracy “powers that be” can kill Craven’s daughter, as well as quite a few others, why not kill Craven too?  He is right there when his daughter is shot making him a witness to a homicide thus certainly killable from a hit man’s point of view.  Are the thugs trying to conserve bullets?  Later, once Craven starts poking around where he shouldn’t be why not kill him then and get him out of the way?  The obvious answer is that then there would be no story.

“Edge of Darkness” has many flashbacks of Craven remembering his murdered daughter as a little girl.  These sequences reminded me of a similar yet more compelling 1999 film from Steven Soderbergh, “The Limey.”  In “The Limey” Terence Stamp also plays a man who will stop at nothing to solve his daughter’s murder.  The difference is that in “The Limey” the flashbacks are an integral part of the story-telling as the film is about memories.  In addition the flashbacks to the daughter as a little girl in “The Limey” have the cumulative effect of eventually explaining why she was killed as an adult.  In “Edge of Darkness” the flashbacks seem to serve no purpose other than redundant sentiment.  We know from the film’s earliest scenes that Craven loves his daughter.  We understand his motivation and do not need to be continually reminded.

The supporting cast is quite good and includes New York based character actor Jay O. Sanders.  Sanders, a very prolific actor, has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows and was very memorable as Sir Toby Belch in last summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Twelfth Night.”  The cast also includes the very fine English actor Ray Winstone as a killer with a conscience.

“Edge of Darkness” is not a bad movie, just one that consists of standard situations seen many times before.  When one also takes into account that the story was difficult to follow, the film was not as compelling as it might have been.

Edge of Darkness, director Martin Campbell, 2009, Warner Brothers Pictures, 117 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on February 2, 2010, in What were they thinking?. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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