For most of this last decade Mel Gibson might as well have vanished from the face of the planet. The once extremely popular actor had charmed the world. Women found his childish grin to be irresistibly sexy, and men bought into the “kick ass and crack a joke” style that made the Lethal Weapon films such a romp of fun. But lately, you expect him to be the subject of a “Where Are They Now” segment from a late show on television. It’s no secret why Gibson climbed so quickly out of the public eye. I’m sure everyone still remembers the drunk-driving arrest where Gibson compounded his already serious case of bad judgment with even worse judgment. He tussles with the police officers who stop him and lets loose one of the worst anti-Jewish rants since Pharaoh unloaded on Moses. He apologized, of course, but some things just can never be put back into the box. There’s an old Latin phrase that roughly translates to “In wine there is truth”. The idea is that Gibson’s true feelings were revealed by the reduced inhibitions of alcohol. Whatever his real feelings might be, none of us will ever know, and I don’t really have an opinion, or care for that matter, except for the fact that it has removed Mel Gibson from the front of the camera pretty much ever since. His only projects have been as director, producer, and even writer. Even those efforts have been controversial. It’s hard to watch The Passion Of The Christ without a visceral reaction to what you’ve seen. It’s been a rough decade for Mel Gibson.
For those who have seen the British mini-series, and I reviewed it in these pages some time ago, you’ll find that while the story doesn’t really change, the dynamics of the story certainly change, and for the better. This wasn’t a good story to drag out over six hours. The British version went into some fantasy elements that this version absolutely avoids. While Craven still appears to be seeing the “ghost” of his dead daughter, it appears to be more in his mind and a product of the grief. In the British series it got rather silly with her teaching him how to do laundry. It was quite absurd, after a time. The basic story elements do remain:
Detective Craven (Gibson) is being visited by his daughter, Emma (Novakovic). She is explains that she has something very important to tell him, but then she gets violently ill. He is about to take her to the hospital when a figure emerges in front of their house and shoots his daughter dead, yelling only “Craven”, as he escapes. The police believe that the detective was the intended target. But, as Craven investigates his daughter’s final days, he begins to suspect that she was the intended target all along. She was part of an organization that was out to expose political and corporate corruption involving radioactive contamination. Craven hallucinates that his daughter is there and guides him through several clues that lead him to the conspiracy and her killers. The investigation could cost him his own life, but he is driven to finish the job his daughter started as much as he is driven by revenge.
The Edge Of Darkness marks a return to the kind of part that Gibson does best. He has done the whole revenge thing many times before. In the past we were given much more of a high-action film. Payback was a perfect example of Gibson in his prime going after the bad guys who hurt his family. While there is plenty of the same determined violent “payback” present here, Gibson’s Craven is a much more introspective character. He shows almost no emotion as he carries out his investigation and eventual revenge. It’s an absolute step up in maturity for Gibson and the kind of character he plays. At first fans who expect Riggs from Lethal Weapon might be disappointed that they aren’t seeing the outgoing wise-cracking justice they are used to seeing. But if you give the film and Gibson a chance, you’re going to love the amount of restraint he shows and the wonderful levels of pathos and subtleness he brings to the role. This could be the beginning of a second career for Gibson if he and the fans can learn to embrace the differences.
While I was not a big fan of the original mini-series, I always liked the idea. It was still a good idea to bring the original show’s director Michael Campbell on board for the film version. He obviously had some insight that just couldn’t have been taught. He also had a good idea of where that show went wrong and is quite frank about that show’s shortcomings. He made some rather good actor choices here as well. Not only does this more mature Gibson work perfectly as Craven, but he has a very good cast to work with. Ray Winstone is much better here than he was on that last Indiana Jones film. But, the best supporting role here has to go to Danny Huston as one of the bad guy leaders. This guy has a presence that just gets better and better with every film I see him play. His wonderful roles of late include Samuel Adams in the HBO John Adams series, Poseidon in the remake of Clash Of The Titans, and a very powerful Marlow, the vampire leader in 30 Days Of Night. In that last role he did very much by saying very little. He’s the kind of guy you can’t help but notice. I look forward to seeing him next as King Richard in the Russell Crowe/Ridley Scott Robin Hood. Keep an eye on this guy; of course, how can you not?
The Edge Of Darkness is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1 codec at an average 30 mbps. This is a very nice transfer indeed. I liked everything about this image. Granted this is not the kind of film with incredible visuals or stunning color. What this film does provide is plenty of atmosphere. It’s all made only that much better with the clean and crystal-clear print. The level of detail is quite impressive. You’ll even notice a peculiar V-shaped wrinkle pattern on Gibson’s forehead. It seems like such an odd thing to bring up, I suppose, but it really stands out in this high definition image presentation. Blacks and deep blue colors are marvelous. You get plenty of deep color definition, and it absolutely stands out. Colors are pretty naturalistic with a tad lean to the dark side. The color temperature is noticeably cooler with a higher blue element that does present itself in the flesh tones. It’s a very nice image presentation. You will be pleased.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is less of a standout, but no less impressive. This is a very quiet, contemplative film. Howard Shore delivers a moody score that runs the whole table of emotional layers from a whisper to a rousing largesse of the orchestra. It fits with the mood of the movie, and the uncompressed audio presentation delivers it all from the most subtle of sounds to the explosions of gunfire. There is a lot of sub evident even in Gibson’s voice. Everything has a kind of deep and somber feel to it. You won’t find any flaws here either.
All of the features are presented in HD. I was a little annoyed at the menu system. Many of the extras appear with optional introductions by director Martin Campbell, and turning it on and off is not necessarily intuitive.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes: (5:16) There are 5 with a play all option.
Focus Points: (30:52) This is another example of the odd menu. I guess it is all considered one feature in 9 parts. You can play them individually or use the handy play all. Once again there’s an optional introduction. This is a very different making-of feature. It starts with a Mel love-fest and covers other aspects of the film from the score, original mini-series and the cast.
DVD and Digital Copy
Mel Gibson has finally returned to the screen. We keep hearing rumors of a new Lethal Weapon. Gibson shoots such talk down, but I have an inside source that tells me it is not necessarily a dead project. Gibson might be lured back with some production control, plus the need for a new hit. Gibson is showing his age, but his return here is a quality performance. Mel’s very much like “a bottle of Crown Royal with dust on it”.