With Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston. Rated R for strong bloody violence and language. 117 minutes.
Based on the 1985 BBC miniseries, EDGE OF DARKNESS is a paranoid thriller the like of which we haven’t seen since the 1970s, when paranoid thrillers like “The Parallax View” and “Three Days Of The Condor” were more commonplace. This is a world where politicians and corporate bosses think nothing of ordering cold-blooded murder, and where one man searching for the truth can disrupt everyone’s plans. It’s a perfect fit for our cranky, suspicious times.
Mel Gibson stars as Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective. We don’t learn too much about his background except that he lives alone and has an adult daughter. The story takes a little time to get underway, but when it does, it’s a shocker. Craven has apparently been the target of an armed attack and while Boston’s finest proceed in their investigation, Craven proceeds in his.
Details will remain sketchy here, because this is both a mystery and a thriller, and we learn things as Craven learns them. Suffice to say that a private company dealing with nuclear materials features prominently, as does their oily chief executive played by Danny Huston in yet another villainous turn. With his cherubic looks, he’s gotten surprisingly good at portraying evil.
Meanwhile, trying to solve the mystery and prevent Craven from learning too much is Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a mysterious fixer who seems to operate by his own rules. He’s the wild card in the story, and we’re never quite sure what his agenda is. Like Craven, we’ don’t know if we should trust him or be afraid of him. Winstone plays his cards close to his chest, to good effect.
The film makes good use of locations in Boston and Northampton, while suffering the usual problems with the local accents. Even stranger is that one of the characters is the Republican senator from Massachusetts, which makes the film somewhat prescient given that it was filmed last year. No doubt bloggers on both sides of the political divide will make hay over the way the character is portrayed.
As for Gibson, this is his first starring vehicle since 2002’s “Signs,” and it is a sadder but wiser Gibson – and a much older one – who shows up here. Gone is the flamboyance of his earlier roles. His Craven is in dogged pursuit of the truth, using violence as a tool not as an end in itself. He is the opposite of his cop in the “Lethal Weapon” movies, tightly wound and focusing on the business at hand.
“Edge Of Darkness” is a thriller that will keep you guessing right up to its poetic but fitting ending. It is a decent and intelligent film, that is deservedly rated R for its several scenes of bloody violence. If the actual details of the story seem hard to swallow, the movie nonetheless taps into the popular sour mood towards the government and towards powerful corporations. This just might be a film that proves popular across the spectrum, whether your state is red or blue.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.