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Edge of Darkness -- Film Review

"Edge of Darkness"

The Bottom Line

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Taking on his first lead role since 2002's "Signs," Mel Gibson returns to form in "Edge of Darkness" as an agonized homicide detective determined to avenge the murder of his only daughter, uncovering corporate corruption and political conspiracy in the process.

If the subject matter seems familiar, it's likely because director Martin Campbell has returned to the scene of his highly regarded 1985 British miniseries of the same name, to largely explosive effect.

Whether the performance will deliver Gibson boxoffice redemption in the wake of his well-known personal issues will have more to do with audience response to the violent film's dark subject matter.

But at this juncture, the choice of vehicle would seen to be a smarter fit than, say, a frothy romantic comedy.

Relocating from the original Yorkshire to Boston, the film's focus remains essentially the same, centering on Gibson's Thomas Craven, a career cop whose adult daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is gunned down on the front steps of his home.

Driven by grief and guilt, believing that he was the intended target, Craven stops at nothing to track down her killer, but along the way he uncovers disturbing truths about her job at a top security-research compound with shadowy ties to the government.

Condensing a six-hour TV serial and turning it into a contemporary two-hour feature can be a tricky bit of business, as the makers of last year's "State of Play" discovered.
Screenwriters William Monahan ("The Departed") and Andrew Bovell ("Lantana") come close to pulling it off.

Although it has retained much of its grit and intrigue, bringing the original Troy Kennedy Martin script up to speed from its original mid-'80s nuclear-arms race context is another matter. Their attempts to update the political agenda result in a scenario that comes off a tad far-fetched where its villains are concerned.

But in between the two "Edge of Darkness" assignments, director Campbell did a couple of Bond pictures -- most notably "Casino Royale" -- and that raw, sinewy energy comes very much into play here.

He also has the ideal protagonist in Gibson's equally raw portrayal of a man with nothing left to lose, though his startlingly craggy appearance admittedly requires a few minutes of adjustment.

Also sturdy are the supporting players, particularly Ray Winstone as a quietly threatening government op with a license to clean up potential messes and Danny Huston as a nefarious corporate head honcho.

Technical assist is first class all the way, from Phil Meheux's evocatively murky cinematography to Stuart Baird's cut-to-the-chase editing and Howard Shore's edgy score.

Opens: Friday, Jan. 29 (Warner Bros.)