Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Edge of Darkness

The 2009 version of Edge of Darkness marks two, much vaunted returns: that of director Martin Campbell to his 1985 TV springboard and Mel Gibson to the role of leading man. Yep, this is Martin Riggs' first time in front of the cameras since Signs, believe it or not.

Which of course has the unfortunate effect of exchanging atmosphere for star wattage. The original Edge is hailed as a milestone in British television, scooping six BAFTA's for its efforts. Now, we have steely, glowering Gibson in place of Bob Peck on a substandard, Taken-esque rampage around the less memorable, modern streets of Massachusetts. In place of the Thatcher-era, Eric Clapton/Michael Kamen scored nuclear intrigue of the original, here everything appears predictably slick and, well, ordinary.

Compressed into a two hour timeframe, there are echoes of last years State of Play, where several edges had to be trimmed and simplified from the source. Gibson is Thomas Craven, Boston police officer who, not long after he has welcomed his daughter home, sees her shot dead on the front porch. Delving into her mysterious recent history, he uncovers chilling corporate intrigue and conspiracy...

And that's as dynamic as it gets. The film is as one-note and predictable as Gibson's barely contained anger. He's done this thing loads of times before, not having a tremendous range, and, in fairness, he's rarely let off the leash enough here to give the film a much needed manic burst of energy. There are some striking moments - a horribly well timed car accident and a shot of a silhouetted Gibson, edge of darkness and all - but its all by-rote.

What's most frustrating is this familiarity has clearly been imposed from above - John Corigliano's reputedly stunning score was tossed post-production in favour of Howard Shore's mainstream, though no less effective, rumblings, making one salivate in thought of what could have been. Likewise Ray Winstone as shady operative Jedburgh is easily the best thing but seems to belong in another film altogether - his Cockney accented, wine quaffing ambivalence hinting at something wittier, smarter.

Then we get to the pervasive influence of Gibson himself. Although not directing, the themes of catharsis through violence and ham-handed religious redemption as seen in The Passion of the Christ and others have somehow again crept in. You can take Mel out of the film it seems, but you can't take the faith out of Mel...

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