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Monday, 19 July 2010

Something personal belonging to all actors always seeps into their films and Mel Gibson - shown here as Detective Thomas Craven in Edge of Darkness (dir Martin Campbell, 2010) - is absolutely no exception. His role is characteristically off-beat and his performance is typically strong as the kind but no-nonsense Boston cop whose life becomes entangled with the functionaries and mercenaries employed by a secretive nuclear research lab where his daughter, an MIT graduate, works.

It's a role Bruce Willis could have played, but Gibson is easily the better actor. He's able to trade insults with thugs in expensive suits but also empathise with a single mother of one in such a way that he comes across as genuine, scared, determined, high-minded, and reassuringly down-home. Willis would have needed a lot more support to look as good. Gibson does it solo - in more ways than one.

There's no female lead other than his daughter, for a start. Removing the romantic prop could have left Gibson looking overly hang-dog, but the veteran actor embraces this weakness and turns it around so that he stands on equal footing with a range of characters who are, equally, sorely beset by the rogue operation that the US government has allowed to become a law unto itself.

The dialog is strong but often hard-to-hear, with actors such as Ray Winstone as the shadowy enforcer Jedburgh severely mumbling in Cockney while others, such as Jay O. Sanders as the cop Bill Whitehouse severely mumbles in Boston American.

Injecting Gibson into the mix enables these guys to perform strongly. The journalist, too, plays a key role well even though she appears for just a few moments. Played by Molly Schreiber she empathises with Craven's plight as he leaves his determinately middle-class house in the dead of night, and is rewarded by a parcel containing DVDs with evidence of state-sponsored crimes of the most devilish nature. Such a scoop comes to a working journo perhaps a couple of times in a lifetime.

For Gibson is intent on uncovering who killed his daughter. In the process, he runs a gauntlet of assaults on himself and others because the operation on the hill, called Northmoor, is doing government-funded work that it should not be doing. It is a scenario of egregious maladministration going to the highest levels of government, including a Boston senator creepily played by Damian Young.

The action is really good, as is the way the story unfolds in stages, although some mumbled dialog makes it hard to follow at times. Craven's misguided rant to the senator about PTSD aside there's little to object to in this film, and a lot to enjoy. It kept me riveted to my seat for the entire two hours' duration.

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