Edge of Darkness **½
Much like last year’s State of Play, Edge of Darkness is a thriller that finds its inspirations in a British made television drama, albeit a much older one. In its day, the original Edge of Darkness was considered to be a groundbreaking piece of television, receiving rave reviews, a great response from viewers several wins and nominations at the BAFTA television awards. Given the impact the film had it is little wonder that the decision was made to adapt it into a Hollywood film, although the fact that it has taken so long to materialise has raised some serious doubts, the film having had several false starts over the years, with Robert De Niro once being cast to play one of the characters before leaving due to creative differences. The role he was to play has now gone to Ray Winstone and the leading role had gone to Mel Gibson, in his first leading role since 2002’s Signs. Gibson has been the source of much controversy in the years he has been absent from the screen, both for his self directed films The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto and for a number of scandals in his personal life. Here, he hopes to make a big comeback and, on paper at least, it appears that this film may well be just the film to do that, the person behind the camera on Edge of Darkness being none other than Martin Campbell, the man who directed the original TV drama upon which the film is based, as well as the fantastic Casino Royale and Goldeneye. With its director and cast, the film certainly has some quite impressive credentials, but was innovative in 1985 still seem so today and does the film manage to be more than just an average thriller?
Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is a veteran homicide detective in the Boston Police Department. As they are walking out the front door of his house, his 24-year old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is blown away by a shotgun blast. Everyone assumes that Thomas, who was standing next to her, was the killer’s intended target. However, Thomas begins to suspect that Emma was the real target. Driven by heartache and blame, Thomas initiates his own private investigation to uncover Emma’s secret life and the reason for her murder. His investigation leads him down the path of corporate and government cover-ups, which resulted in his daughter’s elimination. Thomas receives some help from a government operative, Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), who has been sent in to clean-up the situation. Thomas Craven’s search for the truth brings him closer to his daughter and his own deliverance.
Edge of Darkness has all the elements that could make up a great thriller yet so-so writing means that far from living up to its promise and to the 1985 mini series that inspired it, it just ends up being another average Hollywood thriller with little to distinguish it from the many other similarly themed films that have been put out over the years. Much of the problem can in fact be attributed to the film’s central themes – simply, what was groundbreaking in 1985 is merely generic now. On top of this, the story is one that may have worked well as a TV series but as a film is sorely lacking. Perhaps there was too much story to effectively condense into one film. Whereas the mini series had a running time of six hours, this film is only two, meaning that many aspects of the original storyline have been cut and this is very noticeable in the film. Some scenes seem rather rushed and consequently lack the resonance they should have, particularly the pivotal scene of in which Emma is murdered, which fails to create the necessary dramatic impact. The plot is also too convoluted at times and culminates in a conclusion that fails to be wholly satisfying and ends with a pointless final scene that only seems present to end the film on a happy note. The faults don’t end there either, as certain revelations come far too early in the story, robbing the film of much needed tension later on. In other areas, however, the film does deliver on a higher level. Martin Campbell’s direction is solid and despite the many problems with the script he does manage to get some tension out of it and deliver a thriller that is still pretty watchable. The acting too is pretty good, with Mel Gibson being suitably intense and emotional, Ray Winstone doing his usual tough guy thing and Danny Huston doing the corporate boss part quite well. It’s just a shame that the story isn’t better as there is definite potential her but sadly the film is just too disjointed to really deliver. So, Edge of Darkness is watchable but lacks the edge that would make it great.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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