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Edge of Darkness

Under the Gun

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

After starring roles in We Were Soldiers and Signs eight years ago, Mel Gibson set aside acting to direct and produce 2004’s The Passion of the Christ, a controversial box-office hit and 2006’s Apocalypto, a pre-Columbian action film that was met with mixed reviews from critics and mostly indifference from moviegoers.

Gibson is back on the big screen with Edge of Darkness, a remake of the 1985 British mini-series. Gibson is noticeably older, grayer, and more grizzled that we last saw him, but he hasn’t lost his talent for intense introspection and bone-crushing action heroics.

Edge of Darkness centers on Thomas Craven (Gibson), a widowed, Boston homicide detective. His 24-year-old daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic) comes home for the a weekend visit. Before Emma, ill and conscience-stricken, can tell her father about what she’s uncovered at her job as an intern at defense contract Northmoor, a masked assassin armed with a shotgun kills her.

Craven and the other detectives assume he was the target, not Emma, but his discovery of several objects in Emma’s possessions leads him to think otherwise. Craven investigates Emma’s work history, eventually meeting the company’s CEO, Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), who proves less than helpful. Emma’s boyfriend, Terry (Shawn Roberts), a Northmoor employee like Emma, refuses to speak to Craven and claims he’s barred from talking about his top secret-work.

In a parallel storyline, Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a CIA “fixer” with ambiguous motives gets called in to control the fallout from Emma’s death and the death of three anti-nuclear activists on Northmoor’s property. Despite being given free reign to dispose of any obstacles, human or otherwise, Jedburgh refuses to eliminate Craven, and instead takes an interest in Craven’s investigation, appearing periodically to feed him vital information necessary to keep it moving forward. Jedburgh is essentially a walking, talking plot device that inexorably leads the obsessed Craven to discover who killed Emma and exact bloody, brutal revenge.

For the better part of a decade, the director Martin Campbell (next year’s Green Lantern, Casino Royale, The Legend of Zorro wanted to adapt the mini-series into a feature-length film. The commercial success of Casino Royale gave him the industry backing for a feature-length adaptation, but as with any adaptation of a mini-series to a two-hour film, the storyline has to be compressed, subplots and characters eliminated, and tangents removed.

Not surprisingly, the strong anti-nuclear, pro-environmental theme of the mini-series has been diluted for American consumption. The American remake suggests a U.S. government conspiracy to promote vague anti-terrorism goals, but stops before going further.

The ads and trailers for Edge of Darkness suggest a film entirely different from what Campbell actually delivers. The commercials suggest a fast-paced revenge thriller that, rather than ask or answer questions about the military-political-industrial complex in the United States, will feed moviegoers’ desire for Death Wish-style catharsis. Edge of Darkness actually intersperses long, sometimes muddled and unintelligible exposition-filled scenes with brief, ultra-violent confrontations that leave Craven worse for wear and his opponents bruised, battered, beaten and sometimes dead.

Ultimately, however, there’s nothing new under the gun for Gibson, Campbell, and the moviegoers who venture out this weekend to check out Edge of Darkness.