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Monday, 15 February 2010

The Edge of Darkness Review (Text)

The Edge of Darkness is Mel Gibson’s first acting role in God knows how long (before his rant about how the Jews are responsible for all the wars), and is based on an old BBC television series of the same title. It also stars Ray Winston. Having not seen the original series, I’m not too sure how faithful the film adaptation is to the source material, so will have to review it as though this were an original movie.

The premise of the film is fairly simple: Mel Gibson’s daughter (as in the character’s daughter, not Gibson’s actual daughter – for simplicity’s sake I shall be referring to Gibson’s character as Mel Gibson throughout this review) is shot dead outside his house just before she can confess a secret to him, and whilst local police believe Gibson was the target (being a cop), he believes that his daughter was the intended target, and sets out to investigate the reason for her murder.

This no doubt sounds like a fairly familiar sounding plot – revenge movies have been incredibly popular over the last few years, with Harry Brown coming out last year, Taken and Punisher: War Zone coming out the year before, and various others also having come out fairly recently (e.g. The Brave One, and almost certainly ANOTHER Crow film), and never really changing the set up beyond: Protagonist’s wife/girlfriend/daughter/son is murdered/kidnapped/raped and, seeing that the police are unable to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice, the protagonist decides to take care of it themselves. The Edge of Darkness changes this up slightly, however, by placing revenge as the secondary motive for Gibson’s character, with the reason why it happened being his primary concern (much like the series House, M.D. where the puzzle is what matters, and solving it just happens to almost always save the patient). Also, the fact that it is based on a series means that it’s not just ripping the plot off from the movies already mentioned (it was an 80s series), but is probably ripping off Deathwish instead.

Edge of Darkness is also different in another way. It unfolds as more of a political thriller than the others, which are straight revenge stories, and seems more intelligent (though to be honest, these types of movies never require that much brain involvement to enjoy). I suspect the series was made during the height of anti-nuclear protests, but the film alters this slightly with the concern being on the creation by the US government of a dirty bomb, designed to look like a terrorist weapon (kind of like The Sum of all Fears). I would get into more detail, but I’m trying to be slightly more restrained than usual, and do more of a review than a synopsis (though those are always fun to do as well).

The film is fairly competently made, with the plot all unfolding nicely, and the actors portraying their characters fairly believably (although there was one point when I remembered thinking they would need to give the bad guy a moustache to twirl if they wanted him to look any more stereotypically evil). It’s also shot in a very conventional manner, which in many ways is a nice change to the revenge films of late: Taken used fast moving hand cameras (some of which was almost certainly DV, judging from the altering frame rates throughout), and so did the Bourne series. Punisher: War Zone used very limited colours, and fairly grainy film stock, not to mention the fact that it was shot in a really obscure aspect ratio (I remember speaking to the Cinematographer online after it came out on DVD, and he was explaining why it didn’t look quite right on the DVD when it had been fine in the cinemas – apparently the transfer to 16:9 was a problem because it was shot in some ridiculous ratio I had never heard of like 4.043:2 or something similar), and The Crow was very washed out, with most of the colours (aside from red) having been drained to give the film a far more neutral look. Now, I love all these little gimmicks, because in each case they work: War Zone really does look like they just put pages from the comics on the screen, Bourne and Taken put you right in the middle of the action, so the fight scenes seem less staged, and more like you’re watching them from nearby as they actually unfold, and the Crow looks very noir-ish (which it is, kind of). But at the same time, it is nice to see a proper, beautiful film, filled with all the colours of the spectrum, and crystal clear.

The special effects are amazing, too – there’s one scene where someone gets hit by a car, and I swear they actually just ran her over, that’s how real it looked. Of course, I said this about the scene in “The Machinist” when Christian Bale gets hit by the car, which IMDB users seem to strongly disagree with, calling it “Blatantly Fake” and “Clearly a dummy”. Though what do they know? They posted the exact same thing about Burt Reynolds’ trip down the waterfall in Deliverance and guess what? It was actually him (he almost killed himself, apparently).

That’s pretty well all I can say without getting into spoilers (which I will do below) – It’s a good movie, though if you were expecting another Taken, as the trailers made this appear to be, don’t hold your breath. The action is limited to just a few scenes (though the body count is admittedly still fairly high), and there is only really one scene that I would describe as “Taken-esque” (prior to Taken, such scenes were merely referred to as being Dongtacular). It is still an enjoyable movie, though, and doesn’t have so many of the confusing moments you usually get in political thrillers (you know, when you sit there and say – “hmmm... how did they know that?” and “THAT wasn’t explained!”) – though admittedly, there was one scene where Mel killed one of the bad guys who was after him, and then things continued as though nothing had happened despite the fact that he goes to the hospital afterwards, and the cops are clearly aware of what happened, and you kind of felt “surely they should either be following up on the guy who just tried to kill him, and will find out he was working for Northmoor [the bad guys] or they should be arresting Gibson pending an investigation into the shooting.” But aside from that, it was a very good film, which played out nicely (despite ultimately being fairly predictable)


3 Stars

Good, solid political thriller-come-action flick with an interesting story, great cinematography, good acting, and some bitching action and special effects (which thankfully aren’t overused). I’d recommend it, but don’t go in expecting Taken 2 (as the trailers want you to think) – if anything it’s closer to State of Play (another BBC adaptation), though this comparison is also pushing it.


I just want to address one issue that’s been brought up a couple of times on the IMDB message board for Edge of Darkness. A few people are saying they didn’t like the ending, because when Gibson’s character dies at the end, you see him walking out with his daughter into a bright white light, and apparently they don’t like the connotation that this signifies he is going to heaven because only die-hard atheists inhabit the IMDB boards. In response to these complaints, allow me to lay down a few scenarios which I feel make this ok for non-religious people:

At the end of Season 4 of House M.D., House is in a coma after receiving electroshock treatment, and we see him sitting on a bus, filled with bright light, sitting next to a dead patient. House is possibly the most atheist show on television (can a TV show be atheist?), containing numerous references to the fact that there is nothing after this, and there is no heaven. Yet Season 4 had a very similar ending to Edge of Darkness, and no-one complained. Why? Because we knew that it was all in House’s head, and that he hadn’t died and gone to heaven. Why can’t this same line of thinking be applied to Edge of Darkness if the idea of Heaven existing offends you so much? As Gibson’s character lay there dying, numerous chemicals were released into his brain (endorphins or whatever – I’m not a neurologist), and these caused him to hallucinate the appearance of his daughter. He saw himself walking away with her, and then he died. Nothing religious to it.

The other explanation is that maybe it was just a metaphor – you know how people say they’ll see a dead person again when they die? They don’t necessarily mean “Hey, let’s meet up in Heaven, that’ll be a right laugh!”, it’s just acknowledging the fact that they’ll both be dead together. The film makers might have just wanted to show a representation of this, again possibly as something Gibson’s character was thinking as he died, and do not mean for you to take it so literally.

And even if he was going to heaven, who really cares? I’m not really a religious man myself, and it didn’t bother me. It’s a nice, happy ending, as opposed to him just dying in the bed, and us realising that it was all for nothing, because we will all die and not have any memory of our existence, and therefore all our actions are meaningless. What a downer. I like my movies to have a happy ending – and at the end of Ghost, nobody was screaming “Religious propaganda! Raaaargh!!!”. No – a few guys said “Man, how cheesy was THAT?”, and every girl in the audience (and half the guys) just sat there on the edge of tears and thought “Wow. That was beautiful”. Now, I get that there is a slight difference between serious political thriller, and a silly Patrick Swayze romantic comedy, but come on – is the idea of Heaven really that offensive? Even Richard Dawkins would let that one slide, so why not allow Edge of Darkness the same treatment?

The answer, of course, is “because Mel Gibson directed passion of the Christ, a massive symbol to the Catholics, and we don’t like them” – that’s all there really is to it.

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