The days of the Western are over. Long gone are films about cowboys and lone gunmen seeking revenge against the evil cattle barons, corrupt sheriffs and greedy mining companies who send hired guns to kill the hero and his family.
Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Legend of Zorro) successfully revives the general feel of those old classics at the same time re-inventing the iconic hero of the genre in his new film Edge of Darkness, a remake of the award winning 1985 British television six-episode series of the same name.
Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon series, Braveheart) plays Thomas Craven, a veteran Boston police detective and a single father whose love for his daughter, Emma, is apparent from the home video that begins the film showing the two of them spending quality time at the beach when she was still very young.
Shortly thereafter, the film moves to present day where Craven visablely suffers from empty-nest syndrome. He anxiously meets the now adult Emma played by Bojana Novakovic (Drag Me to Hell) at the train station for a long overdue visit. His struggle to engage in grown-up conversation with his distant child is painfully apparent. Only when Craven witnesses Emma become violently ill back at home does she confess that she urgently needs to tell him something while she begs him in a panic to rush her to the hospital. Immediately upon exiting the house, Emma is killed on the front porch, right in front of her father’s eyes, by a masked man with a shotgun.
From this point on, the plot develops into a truly intriguing puzzle which Craven must piece together virtually by himself in order to solve his beloved daughter’s murder. He finds himself fighting against office politics of the police department, suspicious men in black who follow his every move and the overwhelming grief of losing only child. Throughout the unraveling of clues, Craven is haunted by the ghost of the memories he still has of young Emma and the good times they shared.
Throughout his career, Mel Gibson been an extraordinary talent with the skill to show emotional depth that many other actors only gloss over. Within the confines of this film he brings a complexity to the character of Thomas Craven that allows you to relate to and empathize with a grieving father. When the film calls for some relief from the story’s natural emotional high tension, Gibson delivers clever one-liners with impeccable timing punctuating the conversational dialogue of a skillfully written script. His necessary tears are believable and add the raw emotion that prevents this movie from being “just another” action/drama. More than one time did his portrayal of Thomas Craven remind of me of another Gibson character; Martin Riggs, the psychotic but loveable cop from the Lethal Weapon series. At times it was like watching the noticeably much older Gibson play an equally older and more mature Riggs in a much more dramatic, emotional sequel of sorts.
Complimenting Gibson is an outstanding supporting cast of Danny Huston (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 30 Days of Night) as Jack Bennet, CEO of the questionable nuclear research and development company which employs Emma. Ray Winstone (The Departed, Beowulf) delivers a fine performance as the ambiguously friendly yet menacing “Captain” Darius Jedburgh.
Although I never had the pleasure of viewing the original Edge of Darkness series, I am sure that fans will be pleased with this adaptation. From what I’ve read it seems to not stray far from the essential plot of the television drama. As a stand-alone film it’s a great piece of work. that artfully tells the tale of a modern day cowboy’s trek for justice before he walks off into that proverbial sunset.