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Edge of Darkness DVD Review

Edge of Darkness (2010) movie poster Edge of Darkness

Theatrical Release: January 29, 2010 / Running Time: 117 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Martin Campbell / Writers: William Monahan, Andrew Bovell (screenplay); Troy Kennedy Martin (original television series)

Cast: Mel Gibson (Thomas Craven), Ray Winstone (Darius Jedburgh), Danny Huston (Jack Bennett), Bojana Novakovic (Emma Craven), Shawn Roberts (David Burnham), David Aaron Baker (Millroy), Jay O. Sanders (Bill Whitehouse), Denis O'Hare (Moore), Damian Young (Senator Jim Pine), Caterina Scorsone (Melissa), Frank Grillo (Agent One), Wayne Duvall (Chief of Police), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Detective Darcy Jones)

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Since his previous starring vehicle, the 2002 hit Signs, Mel Gibson has hardly stood in front of a movie camera. And yet, the 54-year-old has been as far from obscurity as ever. In 2004, Gibson made an independent film whose success would be like no other's; the violent, predominantly Aramaic drama The Passion of the Christ, a $30 million production no major studio would touch, grossed well over half a billion dollars worldwide.
And yet, it was a film whose commercial performance seemed almost immaterial to its director/producer/co-writer; the graphic depiction of Jesus' last days as a human appeared to be born not out of career ambition but of Gibson's strong traditionalist Catholic faith.

By December 2006, when Gibson's next directorial effort was released (fellow bloody, ancient language flick Apocalypto), the filmmaker had earned a bruised reputation. This came less from charges that The Passion was anti-Semitic and more from the reports that he himself was, following hostile remarks he made to a Jewish police officer arresting him for drunk driving. Gibson took all the conceivable steps of contrition, issuing multiple apologies, pleading no contest, accepting his sentence of three years probation, and attending daily self-help meetings. Then, he stayed out of the limelight, his only professional credits coming as producer of a documentary film and television series about a Navy aircraft carrier.

In the middle of 2008, Gibson returned to acting, accepting the lead role in Edge of Darkness, an uncontroversial feature film adapted from a 1985 BBC television series. Released to theaters in January 2010, Edge, as its generic title suggests, is an action film not far from past Gibson starrers. Dealing with revenge, this one joins the ranks of Ransom, The Patriot, and, of course, Payback.

In the wake of his daughter's murder, Boston cop Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is searching for answers. And if he finds a car chase, so be it. Ambiguity can only make a character so interesting, as we see in Ray Winstone's stealthy agent Darius Jedburgh.

Here, Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective whose only close relationship is with his 24-year-old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). The film sets this up clumsily, showing us some of Daddy's beach video from 1990. Although mutually loving, the two aren't the most communicative today. After picking her up from the train station, Thomas stumbles through questions about her nausea (she's not pregnant) and her love life (she is seeing someone).
As you know going in, Emma dies, not from her puzzling illness but from a gunman's bullets who calls out "Craven" before killing the young woman on her doorstep with her father by her side.

The murder of a child is sure to produce strong feelings inside any parent, especially one witnessing it and then being logically identified as the intended target of the shooting. Thomas Craven isn't about to take his daughter's death sitting down. He shows up at work the next day and brushes off the notion that he stay out of this "police-involved" homicide investigation. Craven begins pursuing leads, contacting the people listed in Emma's cell phone and trying to figure out why she would have a handgun in her possession.

The clues point to Emma's work, as a nuclear engineer at private research and development company Northmoor. They also suggest deadly conspiracy, as Craven finds himself followed, others dead, and several officials citing classified statuses and national security as reasons to stay mum. Among those encountered in the bereaved father's inquiries are an ambiguous, well-informed Englishman (Ray Winstone, replacing Robert De Niro, who bowed out after a week of shooting), the cautious Northmoor CEO (Danny Huston), and a colleague (Jay O. Sanders) evidently separated by some animosity.

Directed by James Bond and Zorro helmer Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and the original BBC "Edge"), Edge of Darkness is reasonably well made. It dispenses its discoveries gradually, making sure to keep our sympathies with its short-tempered hero. The screenplay, by The Departed's William Monahan and Lantana's Andrew Bovell, isn't the sharpest. The few twists and surprises doled out merely want to keep us occupied until the time is right for Craven's inevitable transformation from detective/dad to vigilante. The simple thrust of the story gets muddled by aimless meetings with the deceased's acquaintances. The film gets needlessly bogged down with plot particulars, radiation and stockpiles, when all it really has to do is solve and avenge the girl's death. With reunion out of the question, the film lacks the immediacy and excitement of past Mel Gibson retribution yarns.

Serbian-Australian actress Bojana Novakovic plays Emma Craven, an MIT alumnus nuclear engineer whose death pushes Mel Gibson to the Edge of Darkness. Per tradition, Jay O. Sanders plays a slightly douchey supporting character.

The film saddles its cast with heavy Boston accents, something you need much of the film to adjust to. Given the lion's share of dialogue, Gibson's blue collar vocals are most suspect. With his thinning hair and pronounced forehead wrinkles, though, the actor makes for a completely convincing portrait of anguish. Beyond that, even Edge were intended to showcase acting, Gibson doesn't stumble upon anything to lift the picture out of methodical mediocrity.

Hoping that Gibson's return could repeat one of last year's unexpected successes, Warner assigned Edge of Darkness the final January weekend that launched the thematically similar but more action-minded Taken. It wasn't to be. Edge mustered a modest $43 million domestically, barely half the film's reported $80 M budget (but more than Warner's $27 M rights acquisition) and a far cry from the earnings (inflation-adjusted or not) of many of Gibson's past action outings. While receiving comparable reviews, Edge didn't win the public approval of the flashier and somehow more violent (despite the PG-13 rating vs. this one's R) Taken.

Whether Gibson's diminishing audience appeal factored into the film's soft performance remains to be seen. The actor's next star power test comes in the Jodie Foster-directed indie dramedy The Beaver, about a depressed man who communicates through a beaver hand puppet. It doesn't exactly sound like multiplex fare.

Well in time for Father's Day consideration, Warner brings Edge of Darkness to DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday, May 11th.

Buy Edge of Darkness on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc
2 Weeks Free - Blockbuster

VIDEO and AUDIO

Appearing in its 2.40:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, Edge of Darkness doesn't display any of the problems that some of Warner's recent new movies' DVDs have. It looks pretty good throughout, its often dark visuals standing up to scrutiny. While a touch less polished than some other studios' output, most will find that Edge looks just fine on standard DVD and for those who don't, there is the Blu-ray to rent or buy.

The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack also qualifies as sufficient but unexceptional. Between the thick Boston accents and characters who mutter, stretches of dialogue are tough to understand and only incompletely clarified in the abbreviated English SDH subtitles. The sound is usually crisp and full, and surround channels are occasionally and effectively put to use. Aside from some mildly annoying volume peaks and valleys, the mix satisfies.

Craven (Mel Gibson) remains outside the car in confronting Jack Bennett (Danny Huston) in this alternate scene. The rounded rectangle cursors are the only thing that's not somber about the DVD's poster-recycling main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

As has been the norm lately at Warner, most bonus features are kept exclusive to Edge of Darkness' Blu-ray release. Standard DVD just gets one extra, a paltry collection of four deleted & alternate scenes (5:22).
These offer a golf course security consultation with Winstone, Gibson addressing his deceased daughter and less physically confronting Huston's character, and two fellow police officers discussing Thomas' state.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray (which for a limited time includes a standard DVD of the film plus digital copy) are additional deleted and alternate scenes, selectable focus points, the featurette "The Past and Present of 'Edge of Darkness'", and unspecified BD-Live extras.

The DVD loads with a promo for Blu-ray and one against smoking, followed by trailers for Invictus, Sex and the City 2, Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 35 Years, and Cop Out.

The static menus run with the same muted colors of the theatrical print campaign, with only the main menu accompanied by some intriguing Howard Shore score. There are no in-case inserts.

What self-respecting Mel Gibson revenge flick would avoid having Mel aim his gun determinedly? Not this one, which uses a gun-wielding Mel on its video cover art.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though engaging and professional, Edge of Darkness is also a bit dreary and old-fashioned. Nowhere near as ludicrous or popular as Taken, this average action film doesn't provide much that will affect or stick with you. Warner's lightweight DVD favors renting. And that is really only if you're in the mood for a revenge flick headed by the Mel Gibson of yore.

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Reviewed May 5, 2010.



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