Thriller leaves reviewer feeling hopeless
February 5, 2010
Considering its premise, director Martin Campbell’s revenge thriller “Edge of Darkness” should have been a satisfying experience. Revenge is a common cinematic theme, primarily because it is so fundamentally enjoyable to watch the bad guy get his bloody comeuppance at the hands of a wrathful hero. “Edge of Darkness,” has everything a great revenge flick needs - a slain daughter, a locked and loaded father and an army of goons that need to be taught a lesson - and yet the final product left me feeling strangely unsatisfied.
Based off a BBC mini-series with the same title, “Edge of Darkness” follows Bostonian police detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) as he hunts the men responsible for gunning down his only daughter. However, after a mysterious benefactor appears on his back lawn, Craven finds himself at the center of a massive government conspiracy.
It quickly becomes apparent that “Edge of Darkness” is not the senseless “shoot ‘em up” that the previews led us to believe. Beneath the surface of Craven’s quest for revenge lies a sharp political thriller. Delving into the cloak-and-dagger world of the CIA, the challenging plot will keep you engaged until the very end. Penned in part by “The Departed” scribe William Monahan, “Darkness” shares much in common with that film’s penchant for twists and turns. At the core of the film is star Mel Gibson’s impassioned performance. In a lot of ways, “Edge of Darkness” was a safe choice for Gibson. This is his first leading gig since his drunk driving arrest in 2006, has allowed him to once again play the part of the vengeful father - a role he nearly perfected in such films as “Ransom” and “The Patriot.” His performance is a return to classic Gibson form, serving as a reminder of why he became such an iconic star in the first place.
Sharing the spotlight with Gibson is veteran British actor Ray Winstone. As a shadowy government agent, it’s his job to keep Craven from discovering the full truth behind his daughter’s murder. Winstone’s performance is a balancing act between ruthlessness and compassion. He is an unpredictable force, sure to keep you enthralled whenever he appears on the screen.
With so many positive things going for it, you’re probably wondering why “Edge of Darkness” left me feeling so unsatisfied. It’s not because of any faults in the film’s plot; on the contrary, it is a testament to how effectively its message is conveyed.
Although Craven’s grief serves as the film’s driving force, its plot speaks to a larger theme of government corruption. By including concepts like false flag operations and the military industrial complex, “Edge of Darkness” paints a depressing picture of a degraded world - one controlled from behind closed doors by a cabal of rich and rotten men.
As Ray Winstone’s character puts it, America is a country of people who deserve better.
Our system has failed us, and our leaders no longer work in our best interest. This is why the conclusion to “Edge of Darkness” is so unsatisfying. We are all victims in this cruel game - but, unlike Craven, we don’t get our revenge at the end.
Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.