A cop and widower witnesses what first appears to be the accidental killing of his daughter, Emma. Distraught by the loss and further troubled by his conviction that the bullet was intended for him, he takes on the murder investigation with an obsessive zeal to see justice done. The investigation leads him to uncover an illegal plutonium stockpile.
For more about Edge of Darkness and the Edge of Darkness Blu-ray release, see Edge of Darkness Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Brash, thrilling, and unapologetic, director Pierre Morel's Taken arrived in style in 2008, dishing out a delicious helping of faux-gritty genre fun. But let's not delude ourselves. While it was immensely quotable ("what I do have are a very particular set of skills") and terribly satisfying, it wasn't groundbreaking by any means. It just did what it did extremely well. Casino Royale director Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness is a different beast entirely. Oh, I know its "Me Too!" theatrical trailer takes every opportunity it's afforded to pilfer the revenge-cinema handbag -- stringing together whatever action beats, gunfire, and squealing tires the film has to offer -- but don't be fooled for a second. Edge of Darkness isn't Gibson's return to action cinema, nor is it a blood-pumping thriller overflowing with shootouts and car chases. More Ransom than Lethal Weapon, it's actually a contemplative, character-driven, slow-roast thriller that boasts a pair of outstanding, arguably crystallizing performances and a digestible, if not predictable story. Sadly, it's also hampered by early '90s genre conventions, burdened by preachy subtext, and slathered in distracting political intrigue. Is it better than Taken? Not quite. It isn't nearly as focused or resonant. Is it still worth watching? Thank the genre gods for Mel Gibson and Ray Winstone.
"I'm not celebrating just now..."
Based on the 1985 Campbell-helmed BBC miniseries of the same name, Edge of Darkness wastes little time, quickly introducing detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson), a respected Boston police officer, and his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic), a young career-oriented woman who returns home to visit her loving father. Their relationship is picture-perfect (at least in the ten minutes we see it), so we know tragedy is about to strike, and her personal life is shrouded in unnecessary mystery (an unidentified boyfriend, a shady job, stomach aches and nose bleeds) so we know she's into something dangerous. Yet when the two are attacked and Emma is killed, everyone falls in line and assumes Thomas, the veteran cop, was the gunman's intended target. (Never mind the fact that any assassin worth his salt would have killed both Cravens to make his ruse even more convincing.) So launches Craven search for answers and quest for revenge. It isn't long before he begins to unravel the true nature of the crime, a realization that leads him to Emma's boyfriend (Shawn Roberts), her workplace (a private research facility called Northmoor), her smarmy boss, Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), a United States senator (Damian Young), and an elaborate coverup, all of which plants Craven in the crosshairs of some particularly vindictive politicos and entrepreneurs. But he isn't left to his own devices. A mysterious consultant named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) appears on the scene and offers to point Thomas in the right direction. But is he friend? Foe? Opportunist? Good Samaritan? And whose agenda does he serve?
If it sounds as if I'm being unreasonably critical of Edge of Darkness it's because so much of the film strikes a well-tuned chord. Perhaps more than any other actor of his generation, Gibson is a natural when it comes to filling up a frame. Whether filmed at a distance or glowering two feet from Campbell's cameras, Gibson's eyes are absolutely electrifying, his delivery raw and impeccable, and his disquieting, heart-wrenching connection to Craven is utterly believable, effortlessly intensifying every gut-punch and revelation his character is forced to endure. Winstone's approach is completely different, but no less effective. Whereas Gibson locks his face into a near-devout state of unwavering resolve and immeasurable grief, Winstone is given leave to grin, tease, threaten, and dance around the truth. At times, he upstages his A-list co-star all together, stealing scenes and making a strong case that Jedburgh, not Craven, is the man to watch. When they share the screen, the film comes alive. The air crackles, the caliber of each performance rises, and the tension becomes unbearable... so much so that other encounters seem positively spiritless by comparison. Don't get me wrong, Huston and Young rarely disappoint, Roberts proves to be a capable young actor, and Novakovic is fantastic in her small but crucial role. But between all the one-note henchmen and emerging co-conspirators, Gibson and Winstone are the only two actors who elevate everyone and everything on screen.
Had Campbell simply crafted a dual character study -- a soulful, two-pronged dissection of Craven and Jedburgh -- Edge of Darkness would be a more powerful thriller, not to mention a more relevant film. Instead, he continually dabbles in tired message points, cheap theatrics, thinly veiled James Bondian villainy, and sweeping, comicbook conspiracies. It's a shame too. Screenwriters William Monahan and Andrew Bovell obviously have a knack for conjuring up meaty dialogue, and their pacing, though prone to hurry-up-and-wait antics in the third act, does allow Campbell to build some serious momentum as the film creeps along. In fact, had Campbell, Monahan, and Bovell jettisoned the film's cumbersome plotting and sketchy characters, they could have made a more fitting commentary about the loss of a child, the drive for revenge, the endless minefield stretched between truth and manufactured truth, or the realities of political deception. Alas, Edge of Darkness is overwhelmed by too many competing ideas, none of which are given their proper due. Campbell tries to transplant everything from his five-hour BBC miniseries into a two-hour film; painting his cinematic adaptation as a harrowing thriller, a brazen actioner, a thoughtful drama, a tear-jerking tragedy, a searing whodunit, and a State of Play-esque cautionary tale. It isn't just inconsistent, it's exhausting. Ah well. Gibson and Winstone keep it all afloat, Monahan and Bovell make the most of a convoluted tale, and Campbell, despite my every gripe, kept me mildly interested and fairly entertained.
Like Campbell, director of photography Phil Meheux appears to have approached Edge of Darkness with a more singular, purposeful focus: stripping each shot down to its bare essentials, thereby allowing Craven's emotional state to dominate the screen. As such, Warner's 1080p/VC-1 transfer isn't the most eye-popping, three-dimensional presentation you'll see this year, but it is a dark, faithful, proficient offering that does Campbell's chosen tone justice. The warm, hearthy hues of Craven's home slowly give way to a somber palette bathed in shadow, making every glint of sunlight and peaceful hillside a welcome respite. Skintones are well-saturated and lifelike, black levels are inky (albeit susceptible to crush), and contrast remains strong and stable throughout. More often than not, detail is just as striking. Sharp, refined textures are the norm, softness almost always traces back to Meheux and Campbell, and object definition is crisp and clean. Ringing and smearing are nowhere to be found, and a fine veneer of grain permeates the entire film. Backgrounds occasionally get washed away by the darkness and source noise shakes its fist here and there, but rarely at the expense of the otherwise polished presentation. Artifacting, banding, aliasing and other anomalies aren't apparent, and Warner's efforts make a fairly sizable impact overall. Fans of the film should be pleased with the results.
Contrary to what its trailers might suggest, Edge of Darkness isn't brimming with ear-shattering gunfire, throaty car chases, or screams of the dying. Death and indignity abound, mind you, but not as often as some s might expect. Quiet and intense, Campbell's slowburn thriller is marinated in a tasty, cinematic blend of hushed threats and nuanced orchestral pieces, restrained political intrigue and sudden eruptions of violence. The results are most effective, as is Warner's excellent, reasonably immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. First and foremost, Monahan's manic dialogue takes center stage (figuratively and literally) and makes the most of each actor's lines. Gibson's voice is clear and commanding (even when Craven is overwhelmed by emotion), Winstone's most elusive warnings are never lost in the mix, and notable prioritization shuffles everything that enters the fray into its proper place. Granted, neither LFE output nor rear speaker activity is going to leave sensitive late-night filmfans diving for their remotes, but each one is satisfying in its own right, combining exceedingly reliable low-end support with convincing ambience and acoustics whenever sequestered. Action beats are especially impressive -- an impromptu apartment scuffle, Craven's highway pursuit, a shocking hit and run, and a pair of third-act shootouts are welcome wake-up calls to say the least -- and Howard Shore's score is given subtle reign of the proceedings. To top it all off, dynamics are decidedly decent, pans are smooth, and directionality is commendable. Edge of Darkness may offer genre junkies a somewhat subdued sonic experience, but Warner's high-quality lossless track does a fine job handling everything that comes its way.
Despite a rather impressive list of special features, the Blu-ray edition of Edge of Darkness includes less than forty minutes of content. The bulk of the material arrives in the form of nine, rapidfire "Focus Point" featurettes (SD, 31 minutes) -- "Craven's War of Attrition," "Mel's Back," "Director Martin Campbell," "Making a Ghost Character Real," "Boston as a Character," "Adapting the Edge of Darkness Miniseries," "Revisiting the Edge of Darkness Miniseries," "Edge of Your Seat," and "Scoring the Film," -- that provide a fairly decent overview of the production. A commentary or Picture-in-Picture track would have complemented the shorts nicely, particularly since each one was decidedly promotional in nature, but I was surprised by how much I learned about the film. A small collection of redundant "Deleted Scenes" (HD, 6 minutes), a few BD-Live bonuses, and a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc rounds out the package.
Edge of Darkness isn't what I expected -- Taken, minus Liam Neeson, plus Martin Riggs -- but that isn't necessarily a good thing. Simultaneously convoluted and overly simplistic, it amounts to a solid revenge thriller that doesn't hit as hard as its filmmakers intended. Still, between Gibson and Winstone's absorbing performances, Monahan's smartly penned dialogue, and Campbell's capable direction, Gibson's so-called homecoming is certainly worth watching. Warner's Blu-ray release is more commendable, albeit only in part. While the studio's impressive AV presentation delivers most everything high definition enthusiasts have come to expect from a new theatrical release, its supplemental package is an easily exhausted letdown. Unless you have extra cash lying around, give it a rent and see if it's worthy of a spot in your collection.
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