As homicide detective Thomas Craven investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion that attracts an agent tasked with cleaning up the evidence.
Note: This article contains major plot spoilers. So, if you do not want to know what happens, do not continue reading.
Another Mel Gibson movie. I had better see my pharmacist. What new jewel to the oeuvre after What Women Want, Signs, and surely his greatest stretch as an actor—at the recent Golden Globe Awards—where he acted like a nice drunk? The scars of Braveheart are still very much with me. It won Mel Gibson an Oscar as Best Director. Hitchcock never won one. Billy Wilder never won one. Robert Altman and David Lynch have never won one. The list goes on. That still causes me great distress, like finding a metal spring in one’s stool. And there’s the gun and mullet period, with Lethal Weapon and Bird On A Wire, where he had his pants down and we got to see his gleaming ass hairs. I mean, who back-lights the ass hairs on Mel Gibson? Chilling.
He used to be such a cute little muffin, sort of a homoerotic boy-toy in Gallipoli. Then he butched it up in The Road Warrior. Now he hates the queers. Thinks even Catholic women should be veiled. Thinks the Jews are a bunch of liars, going on and on about holocaust this, holocaust that, blah blah blah. Not unlike the seething, teeming Jews in the Passion of the Christ, yids the like of which we haven’t seen since Walt Disney’s original Christ-killing Big Bad Wolf, complete with payots and a vendetta against pork, in the Three Little Pigs. Considering that, it’s rather pugnacious of him, in his recent movie, to chew through lines like ‘You had better decide if you’re hanging on the cross or banging in the nails.’ Yikes! After it’s been made abundantly clear that, indeed, he wouldn’t mind at all hammering nails into a prone Jew, or verbally hammering one into the forehead of the police officer at whom he hurled anti-Semitic slurs when he was stopped in Malibu for driving drunk.
There’s actually a new mental illness that is apparently reaching epidemic proportions. It is called Post-Avatar Depressive Syndrome. Its symptoms arise following exposure to the film Avatar and include suicidal depression, separation anxiety, and ‘feelings of unreality.’ I usually get those before I have to watch a Mel Gibson movie so as I made my way through Leicester Square to the Edge of Darkness I, too, longed to be in better world.
Edge of Darkness is Mel’s first film in seven years, they announce like they’re not ashamed, and they’ve brought him out of cryonic storage to punch and pistol-whip sissies in the name of family values. Directed with the finesse of, say, a Mel Gibson movie, it’s about a gruff but righteous cop, this time named Thomas Craven, who must avenge the murder of his daughter, Emma, who he thinks is accidentally gunned down instead of him. He’s the only who does, however. Because we’re not stupid we pretty much get that she was the target when, as she lay dying in his arms, says, ‘…something I should have told you *kaf* *kaf* I…I…arghhhh…. .’ Like in a cartoon. Thomas…Mel, let’s just call him Mel… is the rugged American ideal, laconic, stoic, who has little time for words, except catchphrases, or sentiment; a manly man ‘with an absence of bullshit and no patience for Broadway musicals.’ Ouch. The rules don’t apply to him like they do for all the other pussies. He’s an individual, pissed off, who makes up his own laws. His commanding officers, a bunch of pallid weaklings, buckle at Mel’s simple and earthy alpha superiority and let him do what he wants. Doctors, nurses, corporate heads, too, all wither like stalks of autumn wheat, all bow down before his archetypal huevos. He buys a vegetable but doesn’t know how cook it because vegetables are for fags. He can beat the shit out of man 35 years his junior. He kicks out windows in public toilets. He stands in the middle of the road playing chicken with a speeding car and wins. Even dosed with fatal radiation and blasted with a shotgun, he can still leap up stairs two at a time. Lately there’s been an onslaught of films in 3-D. As this one was, only the third ‘D’ wasn’t depth, but time. Time expanded and warped into indeterminability. Whole seasons seemed to pass as I squirmed and twitched, sympathizing with the characters vomiting blood, as 116 minutes were excised from my life and I emerged from the cinema twelve years older.
Emma was involved in helping eco-terrorists sabotage a weapons manufacturing plant, and there’s some evil corporate guys, and I think there’s some corruption going on in the Police Department. But perhaps I’m not the best person to ask. You see, I wasn’t aware that the movie had started so wasn’t really paying attention. I thought I was watching one of those Orange adverts they have before movies, where big movie stars make fun of themselves, like Val Kilmer as the reluctant old-west gun-slinger forced to text-message, or Danny Glover in Dial Harder, or Rob Lowe in All the President’s Men only with lifeguards. It certainly felt like a satire. But then Mel always feels like a satire. This time he gets to pretend he’s from Boston—it’s all ‘who’s my sweet-haht?’ and ‘Get out of the cah’ and ‘who do you think you ah?’—but it’s still the same Mel Gibson, the only actor who mug and still remain wooden. That’s what I loathed particularly about Braveheart—not the homophobia, not the Twisted Sister hair—it was Mel’s mugging. Whenever he’s alone on screen, he’ll grin with self-satisfaction, like a commedia dell’arte harlequin, or roll his eyes around, like in a panto, smug winks from downstage. But he’s alone! Who’s he smirking at every time he puts himself in the foreground?
Really, what is it with all the 3-D? There must be a reason. In the 1950s it was the introduction of TV. But things have stabilized. It was the biggest year at the box office yet. Surely it can’t be pure artistic integrity. If that was the case in Hollywood we’d never have another Mel Gibson movie. Is it because HBO is so darn good? Sorry, where was I? It’s hard to concentrate. Oh, yes, Edge of Darkness.
I’m puzzled that this was originally a BBC programme, and by the same director. I always thought the BBC was supposed to be quite good. But this is just lazy—exposition is conveniently ladled out on car radios and TV news—and the dialogue gives itself cramps trying to come up with catch-phrasey banter. ‘Welcome to Hell,’ someone spouts, I can’t remember who. It doesn’t matter. ‘I’m a dad with nothing to lose and doesn’t give a shit. And fasten your seat belt.’ Hello, 1987. And in order to anchor the catchphrases they’re repeated a various intervals. When it’s brought to Mel’s attention that what he’s doing is illegal, he says who cares, ‘everything’s illegal in Massachusetts.’ Several interminable scenes later, Ray Winstone—oh yeah, he’s in it— is inexplicably drinking wine by the river in the middle of the day, for no dramatic purpose, for no good reason except as set up for the line, after Mel chastises for drinking in public, ‘Everything’s illegal in Massachusetts.’
‘What’s it feel like?’ is another repeated line. Danny Huston, as the crooked weapons manufacturer, says it when Mel confronts him about his daughter’s death. But it tips the game too early (I think we were still in act one, though as I mentioned, my sense of time was severely twisted). It’s such a blatantly sociopathic thing to say—Danny seems to be channelling his father in China Town—that of course we know he’s evil. How about a little tension or development or suspense? And through it all I kept asking myself, why is Mel Gibson so short? He’s never been this short before. Is he really this short? Or is he acting short?
So besides Mel smirking while at the same time looking like an Easter Island head that’s suddenly sprung legs, and the nonsensical dialogue trying to create it’s own nostalgia, there’s the ludicrous molestation of our credulity: a Fox newswoman who crumbles at one look at Mel and apologizes for approaching him and says how sorry she is about his tragedy. Fox News? Or the gay senator…who’s a Republican! Like that would happen. And not just gay, but an oily, bitchy Boy in the Band, malignant and wincing like Prince Edward in Braveheart. Or when the mad scientists capture Mel and instead of killing them like they do everyone else they take him to their mad scientist aerie and leave him alone and strapped to a gurney, which he promptly kicks to bits. Or the fact that Emma had a Geiger counter in her purse, obviously paranoid because, like, who carries around a Geiger counter in her purse? But she didn’t use it in her own apartment. Where else, exactly, was she planning on using it? The characters’ attention spans were shorter than mine. Or Mel, who does use it in her apartment and discovers that her milk has been contaminated, but doesn’t use it on his own milk? Darwin says these people should die.
It’s reprehensible to give away the end of a movie but, then, who really cares. At the end, jaunty and hale as only a righteous Christian can be after death by radiation poisoning and multiple gun shots to the chest, Mel links arms with his dead daughter and walks off down the hospital corridor into heaven. Fade to white, violin crescendo. At least Showgirls had a sense of humour.
One star because, well, I suppose it was in focus.