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DVD Review: Edge of Darkness

May 11 2010, Published 3:05 p.m. ET

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In real life, Mel Gibson has his foibles, from driving under the influence to infidelity. But in Edge of Darkness, he’s all good-guy, battling the baddies who kill his daughter and letting his morality -- and bullets -- do the talking.It’s a good thing that Gibson’s grief-stricken looks and tough-guy posturing get more screen-time than his dialogue.

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Once he and the other characters start wielding fake Boston accents and incredibly cliched lines, the gory action is better than words. As detective Thomas Craven, Gibson handles his vendetta well and seems wholly believable as a bereaved dad out for revenge. The further he digs into the mystery of Emma’s (Bojana Novakovic) murder and he finds out how little he really knew about her., the more dangerous things get. Soon, he’s neck-deep in a web of secrets that involve corporate power, a cover-up and government collusion with a wimpy senator who likes to wear track suits in his free time. What’s mostly unbelievable is just how long Craven is able to stay alive -- generously, at least 25 minutes past his expiration as a viable character.

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As the body count piles up, the detective is like a real-life Terminator, scaring all the evil guys in suits who evidently have no backbones (or brains), but dodging everyone like a pro. They know where he lives, where he works and even what he eats for lunch (a big hamburger, at one point). Still, Craven keeps on chugging along, peeling back the layers of secrets and lies until he’s got nothing left to lose and he’s simply a deranged, armed man in a trench coat.

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Amid the carnage and tears Edge of Darkness does try to have a little fun. One of the movie’s most enjoyable -- if not mostly useless -- components is the arrival of Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), who, like Madonna, goes by one name and has a lot of power. Unlike the svelte pop star, Jed’s a portly guy with a Cockney accent who likes his booze. He has no apparent function except to show up on benches for covert meetings over, say, a glass of red wine. While Jed seems to be working for the evil suits, he and Craven do some male bonding and exchange heavy-handed quips about having no one to bury them, given that Emma’s dead and Jed’s a loner. These brief tete-a-tetes serve no real function, except to keep Jed’s alliances loose and air out deep thoughts along the Charles River. As Jed drinks, Craven threatens and the suits make evil plans, the remaining cringe-worthy motif is the repeated appearance of the un-dead Emma. Gibson holds his own as a man in mourning, and yet the film relies on countless flash-backs (with video recorder time code, just in case we don’t get it) and softly lit memories of little-girl Emma at the beach and pretending to shave.

Even worse is when Craven talks to himself -- or rather, to his deceased daughter. What’s meant to be touching seems so outlandish that when he later unravels, it’s not so shocking that there’s drool in the corner of his mouth. Somehow, despite the numerous flaws and poor pacing, the film manages to entertain. Edge of Darkness is no Braveheart, or even any one of the Lethal Weapons. Still, Gibson is in fine form, shooting, mourning and even drooling like a pro, no matter what might be going on off-camera.



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