Tuesday, February 16, 2010

EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010) - 2/5 stars

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Release: February 2010
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer: William Monahan and Andrew Bovell, Troy Kennedy Martin (original series)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic, Jay O. Sanders
Soundtrack: Howard Shore
Claim to fame: the return of Mad Mel to the big screen...? Based on a BBC mini-series
Rating: 2/5 stars

The studio behind "Edge of Darkness" would have you believe that the movie is not only the latest slick action-thriller from "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell, but the return of Mad Mel to the big screen. And despite what you may think of the man and his drinking problems/religious/political/racist beliefs, who DOESN'T want to see Mel Gibson make a comeback if it means him beating the crap out of bad guys like the good 'ol "Lethal Weapon" and "Road Warrior" days?

Sadly, we've all been duped by false advertising."Edge of Darkness" is more or a less a revision of "The Constant Gardener" but instead of Ralph Fiennes as a grieving husband we have Mel Gibson as a grieving father. Look, you've even got Danny Huston in a similarly slimy role in both films! Those anxious to see Mel Gibson to dish out some cinematic vengeance are going to walk away disappointed. This movie is more interested in talk than action.

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Sorry guys, if you're looking for this kind of action...you're at the wrong movie.

At times "Edge of Darkness" feels like whispered conversation after whispered conversation, often on delivered benches or in cars, for its 108 minute runtime (that feels like 120 minutes) as the characters try to unravel the script's vast conspiracy that should be apparent to any viewer who has seen these kind of flicks before ("The International," hell, even "Shooter"). The movie is unusually quiet, with a sparse score that rarely intrudes.

I saw the movie in a tiny but packed theater and the soundtrack's hushed tones meant that every cough, every murmur, every crinkle of paper or popcorn crunch from the audience was extra noticeable. Needless to say it was not a pleasurable experience. As such, I'd probably recommend waiting for this flick to hit DVD.

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"Listen kid, a receding hairline is tough,

I know, but it's nothing to kill yourself over."

Mel certainly gives the movie his all but it's kind of surprising that this is the script that pulled him out of semi-retirement. "Edge of Darkness" denies the audience the cathartic violence it craves at almost every turn, as though the filmmakers thought the movie's message - corporations, military contractors, and Senators are eeeevil, mustache-twirling bastards - was more (self)important than delivering a satisfying action flick. That's fair enough but, again, audiences have seen this kind of conspiracy theory play out.

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The face of a man who knows What Women Want

And "Edge of Darkness" seems to want to exist in two worlds: one in which Big Business and Big Government control everything and can distort or bury the truth on a whim, killing all the little people who get in their way with impunity ...and in the typical movie world where "one man - with nothing to lose - will stand up - and make a difference." Sorry folks, you can't have it both ways. Either the System totally crushes the individual and alters the facts as it sees fit (like the world we live in) or Mel Gibson makes all these SOBs pay with a few well-placed bullet rounds.

Considering that we have to deal with the former every day, it would have been nice if "Edge of Darkness" had gone for a little more escapist entertainment. As cornball as "Shooter" was, it was cathartic to see a vaguely mulleted Mark Wahlberg blow away corrupt Senators like fish in a barrel.

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"I'm sorry, I can't help you. I only LOOK like Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys."

Even more worryingly, the editing for this picture is way off. There's no sense of momentum whatsoever. The pace never once picks up, it's as though the movie lurks - and sometimes lurches - from scene to scene. Even something as rudimentary as a car chase is defused of any excitement by the sudden insertion of establishing shots. "Edge of Darkness" is another in a troubling string of movies that seem to assume that the audience has already seen the trailer, otherwise - as another Netflix reviewer mentioned - the opening transition of dead bodies floating in a lake to a home movie of a little girl isn't going to make any sense.

It's this kind of lazy filmmaking that seems endemic in Hollywood at the moment. Good editing is like the opposite of a good soundtrack - if it's really good, you shouldn't be aware of it. All too often lately big studio movies feel like their scenes have been ordered by cutting storyboards out like a deck of cards and shuffling them.

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Evangelists always say that Jesus is outside the door of your heart,

waiting patiently. Turns out, so is Mel Gibson.

Considering that Mel Gibson's next movie is directed by Jodie Foster and is about his relationship with a beaver handpuppet (I wish I was making this up), fans might have to wait...awhile longer to see Mad Mel back onscreen, if we ever do. "Mad Max 4" is already going ahead without him (which is probably for the best) and, uh, I hope nobody is clamoring for "Lethal Weapon 5" after the painfully strained part four.

Oh well, if there's one thing you can say about Mel Gibson, it's that he never seems to get involved with a project unless he's really passionate about it. That comes through in "Edge of Darkness" and it's one of the few things that makes the movie watchable. As misguided as Mel sometimes is, when he punches somebody in the face (onscreen, of course) - you know he means it.

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"Gimme back my son! I mean, where are you hiding Murtaugh?!

I mean, if you need someone to drive that tanker, I'm your man...

aw, crap. I wish it were the 80's."

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