“I’ve got nothing to lose!” growls Mel Gibson in his first starring vehicle for eight years, a hiatus which has seen both highs (The Passion Of The Christ) and lows (a collapsed marriage, that DUI arrest) for the Oscar-winning Braveheart man. More importantly it has seen his star eclipsed by a host of hotter, younger talents, putting the pressure on a movie seeking to re-establish him as a box-office draw.
In short, Mel has quite a lot to lose if Edge Of Darkness tanks. Which probably explains why Casino Royale helmer Martin Campbell plays it safe, smoothing off the edges from his classic 1985 miniseries to make it a standard-issue revenge drama in the vein of Mel’s earlier Payback. Relocated to Boston, it finds Gibson in Bob Peck’s role as the grieving copper trying to work out why his activist daughter was murdered in front of him. Where the original saw Peck uncover a complex conspiracy involving nuclear power, though, its successor has Gibson’s Thomas Craven reveal a rather more pedestrian case of corporate skullduggery, with Danny Huston’s urbane arms manufacturer pegged from the off as the man most likely to have something to do with his recent bereavement.
With little of the series’ political bite, Campbell opts instead for fisticuffs and shoot-’em-ups that feel arbitrarily imposed rather than organically motivated (at one stage Craven is inexplicably kidnapped and imprisoned, only to make an unlikely escape immediately afterwards). This is entertaining enough, provided you hold no candle for its inspiration’s sophistication and ambition. The same applies to Ray Winstone, perfectly serviceable as disillusioned mercenary Darius Jedburgh as long as you forget Joe Don Baker’s splendid template.
Nobody goes postal quite like Mel, giving a white heat to his personal mission that keeps us watching. For all its occasional thrills and bloody spills, however, the result lacks both darkness and edginess.
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Gibson proves he’s still not to be messed with in a film that reasserts him as a sturdy, if rather grizzled leading man. A pity, though, this required Campbell to cookie-cut his masterly ’80s TV series into a formulaic actioner.