Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness (DVD Cover)

Cast: Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson), Emma Craven (Bojana Novakovic), Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), Burnham (Shawn Roberts), Millroy (David Aaron Baker), Whitehouse (Jay O. Sanders), Moore (Denis O'Hare), Senator Jim Pine (Damian Young)

Director: Martin Campbell

Theatrical release: 01/29/2010
DVD Date: 05/11/2010

Rating: R
Running Time: 117 minutes

Note(s): Based on the BBC mini-series Edge of Darkness.

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Edge of Darkness

Review: A few weeks ago I watched and reviewed the 1985 BBC miniseries Edge of Darkness, which served as the basis for this film starring Mel Gibson. One of my comments was, "There's an interesting story here, but it is buried beneath nearly six hours of a meandering, nearly incomprehensible screenplay." I was hoping that cutting the story down to two hours would improve it. It really doesn't, but I fault the screenwriters of this updated version for, somewhat ironically, taking too many shortcuts and losing much of the suspense of the original.

Gibson stars as Boston Detective Thomas Craven, whose 20-something daughter, Emma, comes home to visit, only to be shot in the chest by a gunman outside Craven's house. The police think that Craven was the intended target and Emma simply, and tragically, got in the way. But as Craven begins to investigate his daughter's death, he comes to discover that she was part of a radical anti-corporate organization that was trying to expose a top secret government research and development company for which Emma worked as an intern as a terrorist operation ... and that Emma may, indeed, have been murdered.

I have to admit that if I hadn't seen the original BBC miniseries, I'm not sure I would have understood at all what was going on here. There are so many plot holes that even though I knew what to expect, I was still having a hard time following along. Even so, the first two thirds of the film captured my imagination. It was intellectual, in a complicated sort of way, and Gibson played the role of a grieving father -- and a resourceful police detective -- in a thoughtful manner. Then, out of the blue, the storyline is conveniently tossed aside, replaced instead by scene after scene of mindless action, with everyone shooting everyone else, and Gibson's character turning into a madman. (There is a reason for this, but the timing seems all wrong to me.) I think the mysterious Jedburgh (a CIA agent in the original, an unknown operative of questionable loyalty here) sums it up best:

Anyone who looks at the rest of this is gonna see that something happened ... but no one's gonna be able to figure it out. [To the senator:] That's your objective. To make it so convoluted that anyone can have a theory. But no one's got the facts.

That particular scene takes place during the final 20 minutes of the film and I can honestly say I have no idea what happens just before or after, or, probably more accurately, why it happens.

Edge of Darkness half-heartedly retains the paranormal aspect of the original, where Craven communicates with his dead daughter as he investigates her murder. I thought it was silly the first time around and was glad to see it really didn't get much attention this time.

Edge of DarknessPaybackAnd then there's the DVD cover, which bears a striking resemblance to an earlier Gibson film, Payback, which itself has a not dissimilar storyline to Edge of Darkness. I'm drawing a blank on why the studio chose to take this approach to marketing the film, and it's hardly worth mentioning except that I'm wondering if the studio itself was confused about the film and simply decided to let buyers think it was something about else, maybe something more familiar.

I still think there's an interesting story here, but neither production gets it quite right. If pressed, I'd have to say, if you're going to watch one, pick the original BBC miniseries (but be prepared to fast forward through the many slow scenes).


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