Studio Name: Warner Bros. (GK Films/BBC Films/Icon Productions)
MPAA Rating: R
Disc/Transfer Information: Letterbox Widescreen; Region 1 (U.S.) Release Tested
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone
The first thing that came to mind, for me, when getting to the first scene involving Mel Gibson is "wow…did this guy get old…" From the man who brought us the rebooted James Bond franchise in the form of Casino Royale, Martin Campbell, comes this at-times-odd hybrid of political thriller and industrial espionage satire. In many ways, Edge of Darkness reminded me of Michael Clayton in its insistency to showcase dangerous industrial inner workings and the lengths giant corporations will go to cover their tracks, secrets and targets – elements which have their roots in much truth, unfortunately. Still, the most difficult issue I had with this film was the way in which Gibson spewed out his Boston-esque drawl as a Massachusetts police officer; the entire effect was way too forced and exhibited excessive waves of unnecessary thickness.
Let’s concentrate on Gibson, though, for a minute – this project was announced as the actor’s “first screen lead in eight years,” and whether that is the subject of debate or not, watching him try to emulate the Boston brogue brought to life through, say, performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in Mystic River was painful. The plot meanders its way through a running time of 117 minutes and at many ventures loses its way, becoming a bit too confusing for its own good. What should have most likely remained a revenge fantasy thriller in the fashion of Gibson’s own performance in The Patriot or Liam Neeson’s in Taken, revolving around a parent’s thirst for vengeance after the murder of a child, Edge of Darkness veered off into a political direction and introduced too many characters involved, high and low. After an opening sequence involving two bodies that float to the top of a river, Campbell introduces us to Gibson’s Boston cop character, spending time with his daughter at his house. When the daughter is about to divulge some important news to him after breaking into a frenzied nosebleed and breakdown of some sort, the two of them are ambushed at Gibson’s front door by shotgun-wielding masked figures…one in particular that calls out Gibson’s character’s last name: Craven. His daughter is viciously blasted before his eyes, and dies in his arms from the horrendous gunshot wound.
Upon further investigation, Gibson is lead to believe that the shot was meant for him, not his daughter – but clue after clue leads him to a cover-up involving her boyfriend and the mysterious company she worked for. If it weren’t for his odd dialogue delivery and aforementioned Boston accent attempts, Gibson would have played the bent-on-blood-revenge father character perfectly, as he angrily makes mincemeat out of just about anyone who crosses him – including those trying to kill him that are associated with his daughter’s job.
Gibson’s Craven character is eventually confronted by a mysterious English-accented individual outside his home who has something to do with the corporate security of the company the daughter was working for; this is where the narrative of Campbell’s Edge of Darkness began to get a bit hazy. As this mysterious hitman-esque character drops subtle hints about the daughter’s involvement in the company, Gibson continues following clues which eventually lead him to the doorstep of the daughter’s boss himself – a cutthroat corporate type that definitely has something to hide regarding all this and something up the sleeve. Through it all, Gibson continuously “hears” the daughter’s voice in his mind, as if she is still right next to him in all of this, alive and well. The plot then begins to involve a senator and a role his office played in covering up the “sins” of this corporation – which had something to do, directly, with Gibson’s daughter’s sickness in the beginning – and it was at this point the flow went a bit off the rails.
I can recall viewing trailers for Edge of Darkness which suggested to me an intriguing piece of cinema – but the final product wasn’t what was expected. It’s one of those surprising takes on this aforementioned “hybrid” of genres touching on intrigue, mystery, revenge/action and industrial espionage/cover-ups.
I just wish something could have been done to reduce the amount of torture one must endure attempting to sit through Gibson cranking out a grumbled, force-induced Massachusetts accent.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
While clean for most of the running time, this one wasn’t a stunner from Warner. Much of the picture is bathed in a cold, blue hue in the Boston sequences which switches to an amber/yellow-coated look, but the premium issue was the moderate-to-heavy noise in certain darker sequences and the tendency for some detail to be masked from time to time.
But, in the plus column, Gibson’s wrinkled, aged facial lines were in all their glory on the transfer’s resolution delivery – whether that can be labeled as being “glorious” is up for long-winded debate.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
In conjunction with BBC Films, Warner let the cat out of the bag in terms of budget constraints on this project with one listen of the audio track – this one required a great push in master volume to get adequate listening levels, and the British accents combined with Gibson’s Boston tongue had a difficult time vying for attention through the center channel; much of the dialogue was downright difficult to make out. Further, the entire mix came off as being “chesty” and “closed,” without much dynamic width or girth until explosions, car wrecks or gunfights erupted onscreen. When they did, the effects were jarring – a sequence involving Gibson as he’s firing his handgun at an oncoming Chrysler attempting to run him down was accompanied by tactile and attention-grabbing punch, as was the subsequent scene of the car flipping over and smashing into a body of water.
Still, because of the necessity to raise the master volume to compensate for the dialogue intelligibility issues, we had the typical home theater quandary: With levels that high for dialogue, the action sequences smashed through the silence and nearly blow you through your theater room’s back wall.
Disappointingly, nothing on the disc – which was shocking, given the nature of the film’s basis on a series and the involvement by BBC Films.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
I don’t feel this is necessarily worth a purchase (unless you go ga-ga over it), but it’s an entertaining rental; as I said, what could have been a slick parent revenge fantasy (albeit clichéd) simply became too busy for its own good, and that’s what dropped Edge of Darkness down from a “Must Watch!”