Having gained recent notoriety as a director and for drunken anti-Semitic rants, Mel Gibson is back in front of the camera in this effective revenge thriller. With the similarly themed Payback and Ransom already part of his filmography, Edge of Darkness hardly breaks new ground. Nor is its premise particularly unique: Liam Neeson’s recent Taken covered much of the same territory.
No matter, for Mel is still a likable presence even when playing a variation on his other hard-nosed vengeful fathers. At the outset he, Boston police officer Thomas Craven, witnesses the brutal murder of his daughter on his porch doorstep, with enough blood flowing that the scene is worthy of another well known Craven. Believing the buckshot was meant for him, he sets off on a grim-faced investigation of to find those responsible.
Mel thumps ex-boyfriends, lawyers and slimy senators on his way to discovering his daughter was a victim of a conspiracy related to her internship at the Northmoor nuclear facility. Set against this backdrop of the rise and dangers of nuclear power, Edge of Darkness feels like it’s from another era. Which it is, it being an adaptation of a 1985 BBC miniseries also directed by Martin Campbell. Its strengths lie in the slow burn of paranoia worthy of an X-File, punctuated by raw and well-judged moments of shock.
Best of all is Ray Winstone’s mysterious fixer and informant, who seems to operate outside the usual secret service channels. He visits Craven Deep Throat style, puffing on a cigar while seductively offering information. His cloudy allegiances make him more compelling than the obviously evil head of Northmoor (Danny Huston) and the nasties working surveillance.
Even though the third act rushes by too fast, up until that point the line between realism and hokum is nicely drawn. It’s eminently watchable and a solid return for a star who remains noteworthy both behind and in front of the camera.