Hey, remember Mel Gibson? The movie star, that is? Absent from screens since a small role in 2003’s The Singing Detective, the director of Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ finally returns to iconic action in Edge of Darkness, an adaptation of an acclaimed 1985 BBC miniseries. As usual, he’s mightily pissed off—in this case, because his character, Boston homicide cop Thomas Craven, has just seen his adult daughter (Bojana Novakovic) gunned down right on the front steps of his house. Assuming that the bullet was intended for him, Craven embarks upon the expected campaign of bloody vengeance, but every step he takes turns out to lead him deeper and deeper into a cesspool of corruption, both corporate and government.
If you’re thinking this sounds rather heady for January—typically the major studios’ dumping ground—you’re not wrong. Nonetheless, Edge of Darkness is a two-hour condensation of a six-hour series, and the world has changed a great deal in the quarter-century since the Cold War original was made; in both instances, something seems to have been lost in the translation. The emphasis on a father’s vengeance, with Gibson in the lead, inevitably makes the movie feel a bit like Ransom, except that in this case his child is already dead, so he’s even meaner and more implacable. And director Martin Campbell, who also helmed the BBC program, can’t seem to decide whether he’s making a portrait of 21st-century capitalist evil or just a routine violent thriller, and so tends to switch awkwardly back and forth between the two. Craggier than we last saw him, Gibson is in good snarling form, and he gets fine support from Danny Huston as the head of the shady research facility where Craven’s daughter worked and Ray Winstone as a menacing British operative with ambiguous intentions. But the movie, much as its title suggests, never quite manages to decide where it wants to be.