Mel Gibson's screen presence hasn't shrunk in the least. He can still carry a movie, from beginning to end, based on his acting alone. Even if it's one like 'Edge of Darkness,' which isn't necessarily a bad movie, it just isn't a really clever one either.
Boston police detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) is spending some much needed time with his daughter, who he hasn't seen for quite a while, but in a split second, she is gunned down, right in front of his house. The Boston police are working on the assumption that the killer, or killers were actually targeting Craven, and got his daughter by mistake. We soon learn that isn't the case.
The previews for 'Edge of Darkness' would have you believe this is a rock 'em sock 'em revenge thriller a la 'Death Sentence' or 'Taken,' where Mel runs around bashing people's heads in until there are no heads left to be bashed. After preparing myself for a revenge style bloodbath, I was surprised at how reserved 'Edge of Darkness' really is. This actually works in the movie's favor.
This is a surprisingly talkative film, and who better to fill most of the speaking time than Mel Gibson? Master of the facial expression, especially anger and remorse, Gibson personifies his role as Thomas Craven. He's one of the best actors at carrying entire scenes with facial expressions alone, no words needed. We know exactly how he's feeling at any given moment, he's just that good.
As Craven investigates his daughter's death further, he uncovers a very large conspiracy. Isn't it always a conspiracy? This is where 'Edge of Darkness' falters, and never really recovers. Its villains are your standard issue corporate big-wigs and their slick-haired henchmen. The government may be involved, but to what level, we never know.
Ray Winstone appears as the mysterious Jedburgh. Is he a government agent? Is he a private mercenary? We never know. All we know is that he and Craven have numerous conversations, where it seems the goal is who can talk the gruffest. Jedburgh's character is never really fleshed out, but it's probably meant to be that way. He's a secretive guy, one of those guys you can't quite get a handle on, but somehow he gives you the creeps.
Everything in 'Edge of Darkness' comes back to the big corporations stepping on the small guy. Evil CEOs looking out over their corporate empire from within their offices that look more like penthouses, plotting how to ruin people's lives by making a quick buck. Where the villains are involved, the movie seems woefully generic.
On the other hand, the film plays so reserved, with only hints of extreme action, that it comes as a nice surprise. You go in expecting a revenge thriller you've seen a hundred times over, and you come out having experienced something just a little different. Sure Craven is your typical rogue cop, out for justice, and no one can dispense it but him. Then again, he's played by Mel Gibson, and he's anything but your "typical" actor (especially nowadays!). He carries the movie across the finish line, long after the plot had been limping from a gunshot to the leg.
The 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer provided by Warner Bros. makes great use of the bleak palette used by director Martin Campbell and cinematographer Phil Meheux ('Casino Royale'). Much of the movie lacks color, but that's just fine. We're in a rainy, dreary Boston, and we're dealing with subject material that isn't too cheery. When color does appear, like the deep burgundy red of Jedburgh's wine, it sparkles. Mostly, the movie is dominated by earth tones and blacks. The blacks are wonderfully balanced, and delineation reveals fine detail, even in some of the darkest scenes. Fine detail, like the crags of Gibson's weathered face, are perfectly rendered. Skin tones have a very natural look. The thin layer of film grain gives the movie a nice filmic look. I did notice a couple fleeting shots, with some flickering in the background, but nothing overly distracting. Other artifacts like banding, blocking, or ringing are nowhere to be found.
Overall, this is a great presentation for such a dark film as this. It isn't one that you'll whip out when you want to show off your HD setup, but it will leave few disappointed.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation is, for the most part, a nicely serviceable track, but it's not really going to wow any audiophiles. Despite the promise of a high-octane, explosion-filled thriller, 'Edge of Darkness' turns out to be a very dialogue-centric film. I'm sorry to say, but this is exactly where the presentation isn't up to snuff. Gibson and Winstone already speak low and gruffly, but here they accentuate it. Couple that with Gibson's iffy Boston accent and you have the recipe for a perfect storm when it comes to intelligible dialogue. Truthfully, there were times I didn't catch what Winstone said. His voice trails off, and you may need to adjust the volume to catch several lines.
Everything else about the track shines. The surrounds are lively with ambient noise, whether it be a busy Boston city road, or a tranquil lakeside shot. Sound effects are nicely balanced, even slightly jolting when the action starts. Just when you got used to all the talking, BOOM! The score, while hammed up at times, is satisfactorily even and well mixed. The LFE is set aside until the big action scenes when it crashes in with resounding authority.
Despite the problems with dialogue, this is a great audio presentation, which does everything else right.
Gibson is a master at his craft, and makes 'Edge of Darkness' worth watching. Unfortunately, it's conspiracy plot is reaching, and its villains could be swapped in and out of any corporate espionage movie out there. It does provide us with a unique dialogue-filled film, which is something I wasn't expecting going in. It's well written, but sadly it's a tad hard to hear the mumbles of the gruff actors without bumping up the audio a bit. The video is solid, not overly demo-worth material, but more than satisfactory for a movie of this nature. The special features package is a bit skimpy though. Adding all that together, I'd say give 'Edge of Darkness' a rent.