Whatever the answer, Mad Mel is back for the first time in eight years (he directed "The Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto" in between) with a vengeance in an emotionally layered performance that returns him to the take-no-prisoners style of past work like "Ransom" and "Lethal Weapon."
Always the most manic of superstar actors, Gibson's got his mojo back in this edge-of-your-seat drama that was adapted and Bostonized from an award-winning BBC miniseries set in the heart of Thatcher politics in England. Like the similar BBC mini-turned-movie "State of Play," it follows the traditional path of complex political thrillers and even suffers a bit by the obvious condensation of certain plot lines and confusing character development.
Still, thanks to Gibson's dead-on instincts and primal intensity as a screen actor, "Edge of Darkness" works.
The plot revolves around his Det. Thomas Craven's private investigation into the death of his only daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), who was brutally gunned down in front of his home. While everyone suspects the killers were targeting Craven, it's not as open and shut as it may seem.
As Craven gets sucked further into a deceiving web of government corruption and scandal, he discovers his daughter's secret life and her connection to a group of nefarious types. It's one of those plots where the less said about it, the better; but suffice it to say Craven is on a "Death Wish"–style path of revenge and the personal stakes for this veteran cop could not be higher.
It is Gibson's show and he's firing on all cylinders, but a large and fine group of actors supports him. Chief among these is Ray Winstone as a mysterious and unprincipled fixer who has his own agenda but gives Craven hard-earned sage advice in key moments. Winstone steals his scenes here in what is easily the best supporting performance of 2010; yes, we know it's only January, but the guy's really good.
Danny Huston as the shady corporate head is also fine, if predictably evil. Shawn Roberts is perfect as Emma's in-over-his-head boyfriend—with David Aaron Baker, Denis O'Hare, and Jay O. Sanders also grabbing moments with authority. Novakovic is effective in the early scenes, and there are some lovely, poignant flashbacks with the younger Emma that give a strong emotional undercurrent to Gibson's grieving single dad.
With solid direction from Martin Campbell ("Goldeneye," "Casino Royale") and a compelling adaptation by Oscar winner William Monahan ("The Departed") and Andrew Bovell, there is plenty of the expected gunplay. But it's in the quieter, more introspective moments that "Edge of Darkness" really grabs us and makes us care. Whatever you think of his politics, it's good to see Mel back in action.
Written by: William Monahan and Andrew Bovell
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts, Jay O. Sanders, Denis O'Hare, David Aaron Baker, Bojana Novakovic