“What does it feel like?”
It all begins with the surfacing of three dead bodies left in a river. A foreboding vision for the mystery thriller that is Edge of Darkness, these unknown people set the stage for the governmental corporate cover-up already started, now at Mel Gibson’s Thomas Craven’s doorstep. The trailers put out by Warner Bros. portray what looks like an action-packed revenger, pitting Gibson’s bereaved father against the people behind the murder of his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). Don’t be misled, however, because the film is in fact a very deliberate drama involving the detective work of a cop on his own and outside the system. Everyone at the precinct enjoys throwing around the fact that the homicide involved a cop and therefore was a top priority for retribution, but when Gibson’s Craven starts to see the players involved and the resources at their disposal, he discovers it’s up to him to blow the whole thing wide open. He is a man with nothing to lose and it shows.
Somewhat estranged from his daughter—the one shining light in his otherwise lonely, work-obsessed existence—despite, as his frequent visits show, being within driving distance, Emma’s surprise return home puts the kind of smile on his face that probably hasn’t formed in some time. Even though she is a glorified intern, her job is confidential, so Craven never really pried for details. Now, though, he wants to enjoy a little mini-break with her home, cooking dinner and catching up. But there is something amiss; Emma gets sick on the way from the train station, she coughs constantly, and blood begins to trail from her nose. In a panic, the stakes at hand are about to be revealed—Emma tells her Dad that she needs to go to the hospital and also tell him something she should have before—right when the front door opens, “Craven!” is yelled out, and the young woman is blown back by a shotgun blast. In a whirlwind, Tom’s only reason for living is taken away, and while the cops diligently look to see what enemies he has, assuming he was the real target, Craven sees that the math doesn’t quite add up.
The consummate good cop, Craven doesn’t drink, has no vices, and knows that justice is bigger than he alone. He would never fold under blackmail, never choose his own loved ones while sitting back to watch others harmed. As a result, he cannot wrap his head around someone wanting to hurt him enough to drive by, shooting to kill. So, in order to shed light on the real conspiracy begging to be uncovered, we come into contact with Emma’s criminal boyfriend David, her mysterious and powerful boss Jack Bennett, as well as a friend named Melissa who has a greater connection to the murder than perhaps assumed. Unafraid to leave his coworkers and superiors out of the loop—with good reason as is later revealed—Craven follows these leads alone, keeping his daughter’s town’s police quiet so all information found doesn’t get put into her homicide file back home. No one wants to talk, each is being tailed and threatened, and confidentiality agreements adhered to are slowly found to have death sentences, not jail, on the other end if not held up.
Looking back, I think Edge of Darkness is a missed opportunity. It’s too slow when the action is absent and too quick to involve characters only to kill them off once their duties are complete. There is no exposition besides the gimmicky home movies depicting young Emma and her Dad, films that are replayed in Craven’s head as memories, nightmares, and sometimes voices from the grave. So how are we supposed to feel invested in anyone but Gibson’s lead role? Each supporting player is used as a pawn to divulge the one little secret they know and tossed aside afterwards to obscurity or death. Even Ray Winstone’s Jedburgh, by far my favorite part in this whole endeavor, is absolutely unnecessary to the plot. He is a government contracted spook that cleans up messes left by over-eager men of importance who’s own terminal diagnosis of cancer appears to create the kind of epiphany for him to take pause and question his own amoral actions. A mirror of Craven on the wrong side of the law, his not killing Gibson for being a loose end becomes the only relevant job served by his role. But then if Jedburgh never existed we wouldn’t have to worry anyway.
I like the parallels between these two as childless fathers, I like their similar outlooks on Massachusetts—albeit their differing ways of handling them—and I enjoy Winstone’s performance on its own. Even so, though, without knowing who he is or a strong motivation for his final actions, you could excise the role and not miss a thing besides entertainment. Knowing now that the film is based on a five-part miniseries, every gap glossed over and convenience taken makes sense. This is a shell lacking the meat that gives it room to breathe. All the nuance and intricacies to the crimes at hand have been excised, leaving behind a dumbed-down, bare-bones version that ties up loose ends so quickly and cleanly, there is no satisfaction to be had. Between the systematic revelations of activists, environmentalists, nuclear weaponry, international crime, treason, and Danny Huston’s (Bennett) silk pajamas and gold chain making him look like an extra from Scarface, I was left cold by answers never containing sufficient enough justification. It felt like when a friend invites you over to show off his new video game, pops it in and plays while you look on helplessly. No matter how good it looks, how intelligent it feels, or how great the performances are, without a level of investment it just becomes two hours of a wasted opportunity—although I do really want to check out Troy Kennedy-Martin’s “Edge of Darkness” now.
Edge of Darkness 6/10 | ★ ★ ½
 RAY WINSTONE as Darius Jedburgh and MEL GIBSON as Thomas Craven in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and GK Films’ suspense thriller “Edge of Darkness.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
 MEL GIBSON as Thomas Craven and BOJANA NOVAKOVIC as Emma Craven in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and GK Films’ suspense thriller “Edge of Darkness.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures