Animadversion: Edge of Darkness by Kamran Jawaid and Farheen Jawaid

correction appended, re-edited, full version of the review printed in iMAGES, Dawn, 14th February 2010 in MKJ and Farheen Jawaid’s exclusive review column “Animadversion"

edge_of_darkness

Vengeance from the Edge: A Roughed Out Father on Rampage

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

In the retribution-inflicted psyched-out cop drama-thriller “Edge of Darkness”, Mel Gibson returns to the pilot seat of a genre his resume knows best: a wronged man on the edge.

Mr. Gibson’s last leading screen role was in the M.Night Shyamalan science-fiction drama “Signs”. It had him pitching water (and a club-wielding Joaquin Phoenix) at evil invading aliens, who exhibited excellent handicraft-skill at making crop circles. In “Edge of Darkness”, the evil has shifted to corporate America and covert government deals.

Based on the BBC drama of the same name written by Troy Kennedy Martin (screenwriter of the original Italian Job), “Darkness” is retooled into a fast paced commotion featuring one confrontation after another. While most confrontations are verbal between room bound characters, others have Mr. Gibson flinging people across the room or implacably shooting them between the eyes.

For good measure, screenwriter William Monahan (the writer of “The Departed” and “Body of Lies”, working from an earlier screenplay by Andrew Bovell) and director Martin Campbell consistently make Edge’s unremitting bash-fest fun. Mr. Campbell, whose directorial credits include rebooting the James Bond franchise twice (Golden Eye and Casino Royale), keeps his scenes and characters from becoming B-grade vigilantes by oversupplying them with emotional torment and acute mental instability; about every other scene, Mr. Gibson sees his dead-daughter walk the living in reality bending flash-back scenes.

Paternal payback or characters with nervous breakdown isn’t in short supply with Mr. Gibson, whose inflicted-daddy career includes “Ransom”, “The Patriot” and “Signs”. His remaining resume chocks up edgy people or ones with nervous breakdowns in “Lethal Weapon”, “Conspiracy Theory”, “Payback”. As Thomas Craven, Mr. Gibson does both: a wrecked father and a ticked-off cop.

In the screen-story, Thomas Craven’s visiting daughter is shot-down outside their house. Craven, who believes himself to be the intended target, starts investigating and ends up in corporate muck. As it turns out his daughter (Bojana Novakovic) was packing firearms and showed signs of food poisoning (which later turns out to be nuclear poisoning). During his investigations Craven meets up with the guy who matches the description of corporate villainy: Danny Huston. Mr. Huston is the head-honcho of the company making nuclear weapons intended to be traced back to foreign nations if they are used as bombs. Mr. Gibson, still on the trail, also meets up with a shadowy consultant/fixer with mixed allegiances played by Ray Winstone, who outshines everyone but Mr. Gibson with his dry-wit, heavy voice and meaty persona.

While not new, “The Edge of Darkness” dallies between good and almost-greatness. Its drama is well executed and bruising, and it’s action (and Mr. Gibson’s aim) even more so.

“Edge of Darkness” Rated R, for concentrated acts of violence and blood-vengeance.

Quick Prediction:

While it is no “Taken” (another movie about avenging fathers which did well at cinemas), “Edge of Darkness” opened with a respectable $17.2 million, which is decent for a movie in its genre. Made with a budget of $80 million, the movie is destined to take a beating next few weeks by “Wolfman”, “Percy Jackson”, “Valentine’s Day”, and even “Dear John” – which finally shoved Avatar off of its winning No.1 streak at the box-office. Even with Mel Gibson’s international appeal, the movie is destined to double its budget during its international theatrical run (a film has to make three times its budget to break-even at the box-office).

Second Opinion

By Farheen Jawaid

Liking “Edge of Darkness” is easy enough. But let’s count six-reasons nonetheless.

First of all there is Mel Gibson, in vengeful, gun-ready mode. Secondly, the cocked-up screenplay by William Monahan (“The Departed”) and Andrew Bovell, which is based on the BBC mini-series of the same name. In third place it’s Mel Gibson again, this time as a hallucinating, sympathetic father whose daughter got wacked off for purposes made clear during the entire running time of the movie; the fourth reason is the unflinching director’s hand of Martin Campbell, whose previous credits include reinvigorating the Bond franchise twice in Golden Eye and Casino Royale (as well as the recent Zorro franchise). The fifth is Ray Winstone’s Darius Jedburgh, the rough-voiced CIA officer sent to cover up the political mess. And finally, we have Mel Gibson. Again. This time, because “Edge of Darkness” is his return as a movie’s leading actor (his last movie was M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs”), and that’s possibly reason enough for renting the movie in the first place.

But Mel Gibson’s stark, violent portrayal isn’t unjustified here. Unlike his usual, subjugated, drugged or battered up vigilante (or cop, or cab driver) on a mission (“Payback”, “Lethal Weapon”, “Conspiracy Theory”, “Mad Max” or even the “Million Dollar Hotel”), his Thomas Craven in “Edge of Darkness” is about as genuine and engaging as his Tom Mullen from “Ransom”, and that’s saying something.

The paced-up screenplay bordering on subdued political intrigue and big business is supported by the movie’s pumped-up direction which provides an excellent buttress for what could have easily turned into a byway Clint Eastwood styled avenger flick at any given moment. That alone deserves kudos in my book. “Edge of Darkness” isn’t great, but when has that stopped movies from being fun.

The original publication can be found at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/vengeance-from-the-edge-420

and

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/second-opinion-420

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