Based on the highly-popular, award-winning 1985's BBC series of the same name, EDGE OF DARKNESS is a refreshing throwback to a thinking man's police thriller that Hollywood doesn't really make anymore. Not only that, this movie has a caliber of seasoned veterans on the helm -- original series director Martin Campbell is responsible for the remake here; screenwriters Andrew Bovell and especially William Monahan of THE DEPARTED (2006) fame; and of course a long-awaited comeback performance from Mel Gibson, who hasn't been acting for almost eight years after his 2002's SIGNS. From the basic outlook, it seems destined to be a knockout but there's a solid reason why this movie is dumped for January release instead -- an obvious sign for any movie with little fanfare or bad publicity. It's a real shame, because EDGE OF DARKNESS could have been successful except it is not. Instead, it's a half-realized thriller that tries too hard to be smart, thoughtful and exciting at the same time.
The movie begins with Thomas Craven (Gibson), a veteran Boston police detective who is delighted to see her grown-up daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), reunited together for the first time in their Massachusetts hometown after many years apart. Craven starts to doubt about his daughter's condition when she vomits and grows seriously ill. Things get worse when Craven is shocked to watch her brutally gunned down by an unseen gunman at the front porch. The local police and the press quickly presume that Craven was the intended target, but he remains confused and unconvinced about the fact. After a short mourning, he wastes no time and determines to find out the truth behind his daughter's death. As his investigation goes further, he realizes the case takes him far beyond his jurisdiction where it involved in a some kind of conspiracy related to Emma's place of employment called Northmoor, a research facility headed by Jack Bennett (Danny Huston). There are more: Emma's boyfriend Burnham (Shawn Roberts) and coworker Melissa (Caterina Scorsone) are so scared of blowing the whistles of whatever they have come to know about every dirty secret that they vow to keep quiet. Then there's a trouble brewing in the form of a mysterious "fixer" named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a man who may or may be not on the side of Craven.
Marketed as a high-octane action thriller that instantly recalled the kind of revenge-driven style that Mel Gibson always good at in the past (e.g. LETHAL WEAPON, RANSOM, PAYBACK), Warner Bros has certainly made a grave mistake misleading everyone with all the deceptive trailers and numerous TV spots, as they obviously wanted to replicate their recent success of TAKEN (2009) -- another like-minded genre movie of such. Never mind the fact that the movie is slow-burning as long as it does have the sustained interest and build-up momentum. Which is too bad, because despite all the elaborate plot device about government cover-ups, industrial espionage and vigilante, little thing is actually happen here. William Monahan and Andrew Bovell's adapted screenplay is haphazard and at times, confusing especially with all the entire BBC series are forced to condense into a mere two-hour length. It also doesn't help when the pace occasionally stalls with a series of melodrama involving Craven's grief over the loss of his daughter that it's almost a chore to sit through.
As for the cast, it's good to see Mel Gibson back in his usual form viewers come to love -- an angry man with a personal vendetta who does thing his own way. It's a familiar role for him he has played many times before in the past, but his acting is somewhat rusty -- perhaps from the result of his eight-year absence. The rest of the supporting cast are equally credible, with Danny Huston's slimy performance as the sneaky corporate head with a hidden agenda; Bojana Novakovic's brief but stunning turn as Craven's ill-fated daughter; and Ray Winstone is particularly a standout as the mysterious "fixer".
Despite all the hiccups, director Martin Campbell remains adept when comes to action set pieces. It's just too bad all the exciting moments only comes in a short while. But when they do, they really packed a wallop. Violence is unflinching and the action is well-staged, particularly the one involving Craven tries to gun down an incoming car and a bloody shootout finale.