Edge of Darkness (2010)

(In theatres, January 2010) It’s been a long time since Mel Gibson has simply acted in a film, and his choice of vehicle for his come-back really isn’t a stretch: As a Boston cop who seeks to avenge his murdered daughter, Gibson relies on tics developed for Payback and the Lethal Weapon series, although in a far darker context.  What seems like a botched criminal revenge killing eventually develops into a conspiracy involving politicians, state secrets, eco-terrorists and professional assassins.  It doesn’t end well for anyone.  While all of the above sounds pleasantly crunchy, the result feels curiously uninvolving.  The story (adapted, updated and condensed from a mid-eighties BBC series) advances in jolts, with the political angle feeling particularly disconnected and superfluous.  Gibson himself does better as the vengeful father, his grim (and increasingly creased) face lending a bit of gravitas to the shootouts that pepper the film.  Director Martin Campbell brings a few good shocks and suspense sequences to compensate for mawkish flashbacks to the daughter-as-a-girl and an over-the-top final sequence that marks the fourth big movie in three weeks to make heavy use of pseudo-Christian mythology.  Edge of Darkness doesn’t embarrass itself, but neither does it achieve narrative velocity.  It’s a thriller for post-teenage moviegoers, but even with its grim atmosphere, it’s not even up to the equally-adapted-from-the-BBC State of Play in terms of effectiveness.

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