Thursday, January 28, 2010

Edge of Darkness

Talk to the Handgun

Edge of Darkness heralds the return of Mel Gibson back to the front of the camera, and it's been 8 years since he last left a starring role for the director's chair, having to make films like Passion of the Christ, and Apocalypto. I would have hoped he might have taught Martin Campbell a thing or two about how to deliver a film that can hold an audience's interest, because Edge of Darkness is just so boring, that you'll find tracing the lines on Mel's face a lot more interesting than to tune in to a bunch of characters that you couldn't care less about.

Mel Gibson stars as Thomas Craven, a lowly Boston detective whose daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) comes to visit during her break from work. In the span of 5 minutes we learn that she's pretty, extremely smart, and as a nuclear scientist / research assistant who seemed to be poison in spy versus spy fashion, Thomas commits a Gerard Butler's Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen, where opening the front door nowadays means death. Daddy's little girl got dispatched in brutal fashion, and this makes daddy piss. Except that Thomas spends most of the time walking wounded emotionally and hallucinating, trying to piece together disparate clues in order to find the bastards responsible for his daughter's demise.

Also based on a British television series, this is no State of Play, which also got itself transplanted across the Atlantic into a big budgeted Hollywood film, where one would expect thrills, spills and plenty of twists and turns. Unfortunately, Edge of Darkness is not that kind of film, as the narrative is pretty flat with everyone behaving suspiciously or afraid of the shadowy powers that be, as represented by Ray Winstone's Jedburgh, a Michael Clayton type consultant who advises his clients just how to get out of the mess they're in, involving nuclear weapons, terrorism, treason, profits, and corrupt government officials, corporate bigwigs and activists.

But seriously, what it became was plenty of shadow play, of punching in the dark, of empty threats of who is in possession of a bigger dick. It came to the point of the ridiculous with everyone verbally posturing just where they should be, you-never-seen-me-here, or we-never-had-this-conversation, that it becomes the unintentional comedy. The absurdness continues when you know Campbell lacks inspiration to direct a lacklustre William Monahan and Andrew Bovell screenplay, where the bad guys all get dealt with in one fell swoop, with again, comedy stemming from stupidity. The conspiracy theory is so full of hocus pocus that will leave you wondering why a simple whistle-blower story, can be told in such an uninteresting manner, with neither a human emotional angle to reel you in, nor with any intelligence to multi-layer it.

Worse of all, it then decided to go the Taken route, which was also about a father's relentless, no nonsense search for his daughter. Here the criticality of time is removed, and Thomas just goes about doing his own thing in piecing clues together, and toed the law as compared to Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills who chose to operate outside the system. It was too little too late, and made you wonder just how this could have been summarized into a short film instead. Actors were all going through the motions with nobody showing any emotional depth that make you feel for them, and for some reason everyone adopts the Bale-Batman low baritone gruff voice when speaking to one another. And boy, do they just talk and talk a lot!

In trying to be smart, Edge of Darkness falls flat on its hype and exposed its lack of intelligence and wit. It's amazing just how anyone can make a boring film, and this one is testament that it's very possible. Like one of the characters uttered in a self-fulfilling prophecy of the film itself, with a convoluted plot come a situation where there are no facts. Well the truth is it's also a situation where there's no substance either. Watching paint dry will give you more satisfaction.

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