Hard to believe, but it's been nearly eight years since we last saw Mel Gibson starring in a movie. You might have missed it, but his face has aged considerably during this absence. Now, Gibson's physical change is only mentioned because it works to his advantage in his latest movie, a gritty crime drama ambiguously titled Edge of Darkness. The movie may be a somewhat mediocre thriller, but Gibson is quite effective in the lead role, in no small part because of the fact that his face now looks worn enough to belong to those rough-and-tumble characters that he's played throughout his career.
Gibson plays Thomas Craven, a Boston detective whose daughter is gunned down on his doorstep. Distraught and filled with guilt because he assumes that he was the assassin's intended target, Craven sets out to catch her killer. He's not prepared when his investigation leads to troubling discoveries about his daughter's life. Without giving anything away here, it turns out that his daughter may not have been daddy's little angel after all.
Edge of Darkness is based on a British mini-series, and as was the case with last year's State of Play, the rich source material really makes the film. Condensing a six-hour TV show into a two-hour movie means that the film is overstuffed with detail. It's a welcome change in this age of emaciated stories that exist only as a bridge between special effect sequences.
Ray Winstone is also a welcome addition, playing a shadowy confidant who helps Craven during his investigation and paints the proceedings with so much intrigue that you can't help but be drawn in to the story. Winstone steals most of his scenes from Gibson, who is wise enough to sit back and let his co-star do much of the heavy lifting.
Ultimately, Edge of Darkness does become a somewhat standard police procedural; a dimly lit investigation with a lot of talking, punctuated by brief bursts of violence. With regard to the screenplay and the original mini-series, they are certainly superior, and it can be argued that those unfamiliar with the original material might have a bit of trouble keeping up here. Let's face it, condensing six hours into two means that a lot of good stuff will be chopped rudely from the film.
The bottom line is that Edge of Darkness is a better-than-average crime drama thanks to a top-notch supporting cast, a rich screenplay and solid direction from Martin Campbell, the man who reinvigorated Bond in Casino Royale. Most importantly, Mel Gibson is front and center, and while he may have been missing in action these past eight years, it's nice to have him back now and even nicer to see that he isn't rusty. Gibson has always been one of Hollywood's most appealing performers, and it's his charisma (amplified by his now-weathered face) that makes Edge of Darkness a winning thriller.