EXPECTATIONS: I come from a Road Warrior family. Sure, Mad Max and Thunderdome are all that jazz too, but we don't find ourselves quoting Tina Turner as often as we say "I'll droive that tankah." What I'm trying to say is that Mel Gibson has entered that controversy-proof zone for me, so even though he personally got in contact with me and made a rather off-color joke about my mother, I'll still probably enjoy Edge of Darkness. All I need is a healthy dose of ass-kicking, and that looks to be what I'll get.
REALITY: Well friends, Mel Gibson just said "Fuck it" on this one. and I can't say I blame him, But he didn't quite sing it loud or proud enough.
"I keep telling you, officer! I have NOT been drinking!"
Edge of Darkness is based on the British miniseries of the same name from the 1980s, and it even has the same director, Martin Campbell (whose oeuvre is really not that bad). I think that explains a lot, because I would have had an easier time absorbing such a grandiose enigma over six hours instead of two. In the film version, unfortunately, it just comes off as bombastic and forced. The change of scenery doesn't help much either; It's tough to swallow a Boston police officer getting involved in a massive government conspiracy and figuring the whole thing out in less than a week. Rather than embracing the madness and doling out some aged-actor justice, Gibson spends his time working out a needlessly convoluted mystery about the death of his daughter.
That's not to say that the movie isn't without its share of violence. There is, at the very least, a helping of scenes consisting of punching kidneys, slashing tires, shooting a car until it flips over, and trying to drown a guy with poisoned milk. These aren't action scenes so much as they are instances of startling brutality. They are mockingly brief, and only occasionally punctuate the lengthy instances of Mel calmly interrogating people about a mind-bogglingly contrived story.
Ray Winstone, before his Oscar-winning turn in Saddleblast III.I haven't run across many whodunits this ridiculous. About an hour into the film, by which time I had been introduced to all the plot points, including a terrorist organization, an evil corporation, nuclear weapons, government secret agents and a corrupt senator, I was stymied that any screenwriter would expect me to care, let alone understand. For God's sake, it should be a simple story: Mel's daughter is murdered, so he exacts his vengeance in brutal and entertaining fashion. Instead of the tried-and-true Death Wish formula (which I guess all these middle-aged male actors feel obliged to do now), it's JFK II: Conspira-thon. Charles Bronson wouldn't stand for this kind of slow-moving drivel; he'd have the bad guys rooted in twenty minutes, tops.
In one scene, Mel just sits there, lackadaisically posing questions about his daughter to obvious bad guy Danny Huston in his corporate loft. Even though in previous moments he has been ready to throw down with any chap for crossing his path, this time he decides to take it easy. This sequence isn't much-needed background information; it's senseless exposition. It is so patently clear that tossing this guy out the window would not only serve Mel's goals, but also bring the viewer back from the brink of boredom.
And on that note, where did all of Danny Huston's awesomeness go? In The Proposition he played a fantastic villain, brooding and psychotic. Here, he's just some executive yahoo whose most distinguishing characteristic is indifference. Hey, Danny! You're in a B-grade thriller! At least ham it up a little!
Huston is backed up by a dream team of lame bad guys, mostly consisting of bureaucrats who spend most of their time holding meetings, albeit diabolical ones. I'd be O.K. with this, but frankly I wish there was more figurative mustache-twirling. They just sit around whining about how Mel Gibson is messing everything up, leaving no time for maniacal cackling or puppy strangling. They're infuriating in all the wrong ways.
Yeah, there's a lot of gun-pointing in this movie. Sometimes those guns even get fired, it's pretty exciting.Rounding out the trifecta of wasted potential is Ray Winstone, playing a morally ambiguous CIA agent who is fond of bringing a touch of confusing whimsy to the picture. He's just another lost opportunity for some Mel Gibson ass-kicking, instead treating us to a series of scenes in which Winstone essentially says "I know everything, but in the interests of running time, I shall only tell you esoteric bits of evidence that you don't really need." He's an action-thriller 8-ball, acting quite debonair with his classy cigars and mysterious aphorisms, but never really contributing anything to Mel or to us.
From all of this you might assert that I'm not interpreting Edge of Darkness correctly because I was expecting a straighter action flick, but those fleeting moments of furious bloodshed happen to be the best thing it had going for it. I don't understand why this movie, which involves Mel Gibson beating up a guy with a gurney and asking a man to take off his glasses so he can sucker-punch him, so desperately wants to take itself seriously.
It's like if you got all excited to drive a semi full of gasoline on the highway while battling a psychotic, face-painted biker gang led by a half-naked Vernon Wells, only to realize in the end that you were just hauling a big tank of sand.
MINORITY REPORT: Have you ever hauled a tank of sand across a desert? I didn't think so, sunshine. That shit's hard even when Vernon Wells isn't trying to headshaft your anus. And if you think the desert is bad, you should see some of the fuckin' bush I've seen. And... wait...
...are you fuckin' Jewish?
I might have fuckin' known! I thought you people were good with numbers? That should say 50/50, not fuckin' 22! You better pray to your Jewish Gods that I don't hunt you down and give you the patented Mel Gibson kidney punch; or as I like to call it, "The Wild Fuckin' Bushman!" And I stand by what I said about your mother! -Mel "Mel Gibson" Gibson
Nightwatch Brigade Insignia: Awarded for hiding in a coat closet and watching God's Not Dead, God's Not Dead 2, and Last Man Standing on a 1980s-era portable tv every night instead of sleeping
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