Mel Gibson has made a lot of films where he’s the simple-minded tough guy, notably the Lethal Weapon series, but the last few years have seen his personal life overshadow his career as he careened from one gaffe to the next. Edge of Darkness represents him trying to get back into the groove, to resurrect his acting career, and it’s an exciting but distressingly manipulative film.
The film, based on a mid-’80s BBC drama also directed by Martin Campbell, opens with choppy home movies of Emma (Gabrielle Popa) at the beach when she was 7 or 8 with Tom Craven (Gibson) chatting with her off camera. We cut directly to Tom waiting for the adult Emma (Bojana Novakovic) at Boston’s South Station. She arrives and is clearly ill, throwing up and even having a nosebleed.
He asks about her job, she responds that he has no idea what she does for a living, and that’s the starting point for the movie because she’s right, Tom has no idea what Emma does for a living. Moments later, masked thugs show up and shoot her, leading to the cheesiest death scene I’ve watched in years. Surprise, the police blithely assume the criminals were gunning for Tom, and it’s up to him as the rogue cop and avenging angel to launch his own investigation and figure out who killed her and why.
The thing that bothered me about this movie is that because the bad guys are so darn evil, anything that the good guy does in bringing them to justice is acceptable. Tom tracks down Emma’s boyfriend, David Burnham (Shawn Roberts), then promptly breaks into the man’s apartment and gets into a fight with him. No problem, though, he’s on the trail of the bad guys.
In the next scene we find that Craven has broken into Emma’s apartment and is going through her stuff. Yeah, he’s her father, but this is clearly not acceptable police procedure; he’s no longer in Boston and is out of his jurisdiction, and it’s not a problem?
He learns that Emma worked for Northmoor, the cliché Big Evil Corporation peopled with slick executives and emotionless security personnel. Tom meets with Northmoor executive Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), a senior corporate executive, and tries to learn more about what Emma did for the company, but predictably is rebuffed that her work — even as an intern — was confidential and can’t be shared.
More characters show up as the story unfolds, including the mysterious government agent Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) and the naive Sen. Jim Pine (Damien Young). Eventually there are a couple of important themes that emerge, but by that point it’s clear that the reason for Tom’s actions are irrelevant. He’s just a broken, nothing-left-to-lose rogue cop who is going to ploddingly figure out what’s going on, even if he has to kill everyone along the way.
Ultimately, Edge of Darkness is what I’d expect to get if I threw Lethal Weapon and two other Gibson films, Conspiracy Theory and Payback, into a blender. He’s the same character, the same flat, troubled, slightly clueless man in all of them.
I was bored by this film. The overall storyline was so predictable and there were so many laughably stupid moments (which I can’t detail without adding spoilers) that I was relieved when the closing credits rolled. My advice? There are lots of good avenging rogue cop movies. Rent Dirty Harry instead.