EDGE OF DARKNESS - Blu-ray review

While it offers nothing particularly new or original, it does maintain one's interest and provides a welcome return to the screen of a fine actor.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.
Puccio
TimRaynor's picture
Tim
Raynor

"We're all terminal."

Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review both John and Tim provide their opinions on the film, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.

The Film According to John:
Heeeee's back.

Mel Gibson returns to the screen after several years hiatus in 2010's "Edge of Darkness," a crime thriller based on the 1985 British TV miniseries. Getting the television show's original director, Martin Campbell ("GoldenEye," "The Mask of Zorro," "Casino Royale"), was certainly a good move on the producer's part, but getting Gibson to star was the real stroke of genius. I can't think of many other actors who could have pulled off the role so well. The script seems almost tailor-made for his talents. But more on that in a minute.

The story, adapted from the six-part miniseries, combines a revenge movie with a detective investigation and a conspiracy plot. Can't beat that, especially because Gibson, as Boston police detective Tom Craven, has already done revenge ("Mad Max," "Payback," "Braveheart," "Ransom"), detectives ("Lethal Weapon 1, 2, 3, and 4"), and conspiracy ("Conspiracy Theory"). This time it's his character's twenty-four-year-old daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), who propels him into action.

Tom Craven is a very traditional, old-fashioned, conservative kind of guy whose daughter comes to visit him for the first time in a long while. He loves her dearly, so when the two of them step onto his porch and a masked gunman murders her, he's understandably maddened by grief and anger. He and everyone else assumes the gunman was aiming for him: an old nemesis out to get even, something like that. It only dawns on Craven as he begins to investigate this daughter's death that maybe, just maybe, the assassin intended to kill his daughter all along.

Like, why, he discovers later, did his sweet little daughter carry a loaded automatic handgun with her? And why did somebody break into her apartment after her death and steal her computer? And why do the strands of hair Craven snips off her head appear to be radioactive?

The fact is, "Edge of Darkness" breaks no new ground here. We can see most of the narrative unfold well ahead of time. Likewise, we can get a pretty good handle on all of the characters ahead of time as well: Like Ray Winstone as Jedburgh, a mystery man, a "consultant in security" whom we learn is more complicated than he looks and whose loyalty is always in question. Whose side is he on? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Think of the British actor's similar role in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Then there's Danny Huston as Jack Bennett, the president of a big, shady corporation that just might have ties with the government. And Shawn Roberts as David Burnham, Emma's boyfriend, who's scared to death to talk to anyone, especially Craven. And Damian Young as Senator Jim Pine, a sleazy politician; and Jay O. Sanders as Bill Whitehouse, one of Craven's colleagues on the police force. One look at these folks, and you know where things are going.

No, the value in this picture lies entirely with Gibson. He's in every shot, and he carries every scene. He's the serious side of "Lethal Weapon's" wild-and-crazy Martin Riggs. After his daughter's death, Craven feels lost and will stop at nothing to find his daughter's killer. As Craven says, "I'm the guy with nothing to lose, and I don't give a shit!" It's important that Gibson has aged into the part. This is not the type of role the actor could have taken on a dozen or more years ago. Gibson has assumed a kind of gravitas in his middle age, and he imparts to the character the sort of weightiness a Humphrey Bogart or a current-day Harrison Ford might bring to it. With his receding hair and well-lined face, Gibson not only acts the part of a distraught father but looks it as well, a man who regrets not having given her the time he should have. We have to see and feel this portion of guilt as one of Craven's motivating factors, and Gibson handles it.

Interestingly, the movie is also the polar opposite of another popular film on a similar subject that appeared a year or so before this one: Liam Neeson's "Taken." In "Taken" Neeson played the aggrieved father of a kidnapped teenage daughter, a man who went after the perpetrators with a single-mindedness reminiscent of Gibson's character. The difference is that "Taken" was a straight-ahead action picture, with almost nonstop fights and shoot-outs. "Edge of Darkness" isn't like that, and it may trouble some viewers that it isn't. "Edge of Darkness" is more of a police procedural, more of a conventional detective story where the main character investigates a case, carefully picks up the clues, and slowly unravels the mystery. Although, yes, there are a few action scenes involved, including one that may jolt you out of your seat, for the most part, this is a thoughtful suspense story rather than an outright thriller.

Any other weaknesses beyond the obviousness of the plot? I thought it took too long getting started and spent too long with the grieving father. Besides which, the daughter kept popping up in Craven's memory too often, belaboring the point; and the movie's final segment with its over-the-top violence is rather at odds with everything that precedes it. Beyond those minor distractions, no. "Edge of Darkness" contains a fascinating character examination and an intriguing investigative study, sophisticated and scarce ingredients in today's overblown cinematic mystery field.

John's film rating: 7/10

The Film According to Tim:
First of all, I certainly cannot review 2010's "Edge of Darkness" without addressing the question of where Mel Gibson has been for the past seven years, playing no lead roles. After his drunken debacle in Malibu, he has only made small appearances on film, and to his own embarrassment, he laid low in Costa Rica crawling inside of a bottle of Tequila. Rightfully so, since a large majority of people he works with in Hollywood are of the same ethnic group he verbally attacked in his drunken stupor. It was certainly a huge mistake on his part and one that caused him to remain silent and out of the limelight for quite a while. Nevertheless, time has a way of healing wounds, and I'm sure most of us have forgiven him, moved on, yet not forgotten. God knows, I'm not perfect myself and regrettably have made my fair share of mistakes, too. Then again, who hasn't?

Luckily for Gibson, he still maintains a huge fan base that admires his work on film, and it's good to see him address his faults bravely by getting back on the horse. In my opinion, returning to the big screen is probably the best way he could heal his embarrassment further and show his colleagues that he is strong and courageous enough to face his mistakes. Therefore, the real question here is, Has Gibson given us a performance to admire? As far as the character he plays, the answer would be yes. However, "Edge of Darkness" is a simple enough narrative that it really has nothing new to offer in the way of anything unique, fresh, or challenging.

In "Edge of Darkness," Gibson teams up with director Martin Campbell--who also directed the television miniseries back in 1985--to deliver a murder mystery filled with government corruption, corporate greed, and a hero bent on revenge. It's pretty much all the usual plot ideas we've seen many times in this genre and a character foundation we've gotten many times from Gibson in past roles. The movie may not have anything new to offer, but with Gibson's presentation and a dialogue-driven narrative, it does manage to stay above par compared to, say, a typical Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie. And let me make this clear: Contrary to some reviews that say this film is "action driven," I would beg to differ. No, this film is a murder mystery that is very dialogue driven, and the previews alone give away all the action that the movie has to offer. Therefore, don't expect a lot of over-hyped action as you might get in a "Lethal Weapon" movie.

Here's a run-down: Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is a Boston police detective who witnesses the murder of his daughter, Emma Craven (Bojana Novakovic), on the front porch of his house. The event leaves Tom with no choice but to unravel the mystery of why his daughter was killed and what she was involved in that would lead to her brutal murder. Along the way, Tom meets an unlikely character named Jedburgh (Ray Winston), who gives him clues to his investigation. Nevertheless, we are always left in doubt as to whether Jedburgh is a villain or a good guy. Staying faithful to the genre, the trail leads us down a path that soon exposes a classic case of corruption, greed, and government shenanigans.

The Good:
There is no doubt the one best thing about "Edge of Darkness" is seeing Gibson back in action in a lead performance. He does it with all the conviction we would expect and certainly never fails to satisfy his fans. The film itself manages to stay focused on a good old, run-of-the-mill mystery that never veers to far off the path. It may not have the high-octane action we are used to in a Mel Gibson vehicle, but it's good that the film manages to deliver a calming balance.

The Bad:
As much as I liked Gibson's performance, I'm not too sure if this is the film to define his return to the big screen. The narrative is nothing original, and it isn't like we haven't seen Gibson play a man bent on revenge in past films. Granted, the revenge motif is something Gibson is good at and perhaps he took the role knowing his fan base would appreciate it. Nonetheless, I would hope he considers showing us a little more range in future performances.

The Ugly:
The usual clichés are what can be ugly in this film. It does get a little tiring to see police detectives always drive Ford Crown Royales and villain thugs always drive black SUVs. There really isn't much to say for the set pieces or overall look of the film, either. The way the director and cinematographer shot film is pretty average, to say the least, but the key here is a performance-driven narrative.

Overall, it's good to see Mel Gibson back in form; unfortunately, it's in a hackneyed narrative that really doesn't deliver many surprises. That being said, the film is good enough on its own terms as murder-mystery entertainment; it's just not one to leave you wanting more.

Tim's film rating: 6/10

Video:
I didn't find it too promising when I first noticed that Warners had used only a single-layer BD25 to transfer the film to Blu-ray disc, but the VC-1, high-def reproduction shows up decently, anyway. Colors look vibrant and well contrasted, with realistic skin tones. Black levels are fairly intense, even if they aren't always the deepest possible. A modicum of natural film grain provides a degree of texture to an otherwise fairly flat image. And various lighting schemes result in some ordinary-to-excellent detailing and definition, with the merely ordinary shots appearing a bit soft. I doubt anyone will complain about the picture quality, even though it isn't absolutely top drawer.

Audio:
Because this is not a simple action film, we don't get a typical knock 'em-sock 'em soundtrack. Most of the story is an investigation, so the dialogue is all important, for which the midrange does a fine job. However, the several action scenes come off with authority, displaying strong impact and a few well-placed surround effects.

Extras:
The primary bonus items on the Blu-ray disc are nine, brief "Focus Points" featurettes. The viewer may watch them separately or all at once with a "Play All" function. These little segments begin with "Mel's Back," four minutes on the star; followed by "Making a Ghost Character Real," three minutes on the daughter's role; "Scoring The Edge of Darkness," three minutes with composer Howard Shore; "Revisiting The Edge of Darkness Mini-series," two minutes, and "Adapting The Edge of Darkness Mini-series," three minutes; "Thomas Craven's War of Attrition," five minutes on the movie's themes; "Boston as a Character," three minutes on the movie's setting; "Director Profile: Martin Campbell," three minutes, self-explanatory; and "Edge of Your Seat," two minutes on the film's use of suspense.

Further, we get a series of four additional or alternate scenes totaling about five minutes; a generous thirty scene selections; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

What's more, as this is a Combo Pack, we get not only the Blu-ray disc but a DVD copy of the film as well and a digital copy (for iTunes and Windows Media, the offer expiring May 9, 2011).

Parting Thoughts:
"Edge of Darkness" is vintage Gibson. While it offers nothing particularly new or original, it does maintain one's interest and, more important, provides a welcome return to the screen of a fine actor.

Never mess with somebody with nothing to lose.

Ratings

Video
7
Audio
8
Extras
6
Film Value
7