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Heart of ‘Darkness’: Gibson’s Tough Cop

It's been eight long years since Mel Gibson has been the marquee star of a major motion picture, and a lot has happened to put some stubborn stains on his reputation. So it's understandable if you resist rushing to the theater to see "Edge of Darkness," Gibson's first starring role since 2002's "Signs." But please note the irony here because it is just that — Gibson's presence — that makes "Edge of Darkness" a relatively watchable film.

There's a reason we elevated Mel Gibson to star status in the first place. If you want "intense but charming," he's your man. Even now, with wrinkles apparent and hair quickly fading away, his eyes still blaze with that spark that made him "Mel Gibson." And this is all the more intensified when he's put into the role of Thomas Craven, a traditional Boston cop who watched his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) gunned down in front of their home. He wants to know why and he wants justice — but only if he delivers it.

We've seen a few vengeful father movies over the last few years (most recently "Taken"), so the film doesn't get points for originality. But "Edge of Darkness" surprises in how it takes its time revealing the small details that make this stoical man, who refuses all sympathy from his friends and seems to have no other family on the face of the earth, someone at all likable and worth rooting for.

It's in short bursts that Craven's capacity for tenderness is revealed, whether through brief, touching memories of Emma as a young girl that seep into the story, or in the way he talks to women around his daughter's age.

It's also in sudden bursts when we face Craven's rage and resignation that he's got nothing left to lose. And in between these small moments, Craven methodically and privately works to uncover the secrets that led to his daughter's murder.

Unfortunately, it's where his investigation leads that makes "Edge of Darkness" an average film instead of a terrific one. The film is based on a 1985 British miniseries, so it had a basic premise that it needed to follow. But to adapt to the times, writers William Monahan and Andrew Bovell went to well-traveled territory — a nuclear research and development company with highly classified government contracts, an untouchable private security team, and a U.S. senator in its back pocket.

From their ultramodern office furniture to their lurking, black SUVs with tinted windows, "the bad guys" in this film feel right out of last century's central casting. So when one man in their midst (Ray Winstone) demonstrates behavior beyond that of a cartoon-character bad guy, you're expecting something more out of him long before he ever delivers it.

Yet, even with its overall plot transparency and a few gaps in common sense and logic, "Edge of Darkness" still manages to deliver a satisfactory moviegoing experience. And whether you want to admit it or not, it's Mel Gibson the movie star that makes it so.

"Edge of Darkness." Rated: R. Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes. 2 stars.

To find out more about Alison Gang and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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