Friday, January 29, 2010

Edge of Darkness (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

It’s been seven years since Mel Gibson has had a starring role, but graying hair and lined visage notwithstanding, he delivers as solid a performance as ever playing veteran Boston cop Thomas Craven consumed with grief and investigating the murder of his 24-year-old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). He uses an authentic Boston accent to boot.

Interestingly, the film -- adapted from the award-winning 1985 BBC series which starred Bob Peck and was written by Troy Kennedy Marti -- is directed by the series director Martin Campbell. It is, on the whole, tense and absorbing, even though its various plot turns and revelations are reminiscent of so many other stories we’ve seen in the intervening years.

Emma has just returned to her father’s home for a visit when she’s shot on his porch as they leave the house for dinner. Craven’s the presumed target, but he soon figures out that was not so.

Emma, it seemed, worked for a private research compound (with government contracts) called Northmoor, and it’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that he soon discovers the company -- run by the smarmy and corrupt Jack Bennett (Danny Huston). – has been up to no good, leading down a trail to locate her friends, like scruffy boyfriend (and coworker) Daniel Burnham (Shawn Roberts), corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, all the while evading the Northmoor goons out to get him, and so on.

Ray Winstone is a plus as enigmatic emissary Derek Jedburgh hired to do damage control for Nordstrom, and who curiously bonds with Craven, even though they are technically at cross-purposes.

Craven’s devotion to his daughter is shown in frequent flashbacks and old home movie footage, including a particularly touching sequence where, as a little girl, she watches and emulates her dad as he’s shaving, one of the film’s few light moments.

On an entertainment scale, I’d say this is roughly on the level of the Russell Crowe “State of Play,” also adapted from a superior BBC mini-series. Like that film, “Edge of Darkness” is good, but the longer – and therefore more finely detailed -- series was probably better.

In condensing, scriptwriters William Monahan and Andrew Bovell, besides changing the setting to the U.S. and updating the political angle, have had to tell a complex story is broad, quick strokes.

Still, the film holds your interest, despite its conventional aspects (those endless car chases, for one thing), and Mel’s compelling return to the screen is worth catching.

(The film is rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence and language.) Print this post


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