Mel Gibson uses his newest shot-in-Boston film, a rather rote tale of a vengeful father hunting the people who murdered his daughter, to prove he’s still loaded with charm and the ability to kick butts and drop one-liners with precision.
You can tell a lot about a person by how they behave when they’re sloshed to the gills. Take Mel Gibson. On a warm California night in July 2006, the former box-office champ managed to ruin his reputation, marriage and career in the space of a couple of booze-filled hours.
Not only did he endanger innocent lives by driving drunk, he also regaled sheriff’s deputies with remarks that were sexist, racist and hateful. His notorious comment, “I own Malibu,” said everything there is to say about a movie star whose ego was big enough to believe he was exempt from the law and human decency.
Now he wants us to forgive him the only way he knows how, by having us dump cash into his already deep pockets by purchasing a ticket to “Edge of Darkness,” his first acting gig since he last appeared before a California judge.
And it’s tempting to say bygones, as Gibson uses the flick, a rather rote tale of a vengeful father hunting the people who murdered his daughter, to prove he’s still loaded with charm and the ability to kick butts and drop one-liners with precision.
In fact, seeing him onscreen again is almost akin to spying a friend for the first time in years. It fills you full of memories and nostalgia for another time, another place. But in the back of your mind, the images of him screaming anti-Semitic remarks while cuffed inside the back of a squad car incessantly creep in.
Ultimately, it makes it hard to watch the movie, which has a hard enough time on its own trying to lure you into its familiar landscape of corrupt corporations and narcissistic politicians who believe it’s their financially given right to circumvent the rules.
Obviously, not the best subject for Gibson to hang his acting mea culpa on. But it might have been if the story weren’t so relentlessly dull and talky.
The film’s trailer clearly wants to pass itself off as this year’s version of “Taken,” but it has none of the action and ridiculous plot twists that made that father-daughter thriller such a guilty pleasure.
That film also never took itself seriously, or at least not as seriously as “Edge of Darkness” does. It practically screams “importance,” as director Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) recycles much of Gibson’s underrated thriller, “Conspiracy Theory,” albeit without the very lovely Julia Roberts at his side.
Everything else is practically the same, as Mel digs deeper for clues, and the evil government-sponsored factions conspire to send him to an early grave. That means a lot of scenes of Mel running, ducking and rifling through papers and refrigerators.
And if he doesn’t get what he hopes to find, he simply beats the crap out of whoever is standing nearby.
I often found the scenery more interesting than the story, which Oscar-winner William Monahan (“The Departed”) and Andrew Bovell (“Lantana”) have lazily constructed to resemble every police procedural you’ve ever seen. That includes, of course, shakedowns, interrogations and clandestine meetings that have a habit of turning into ambushes.
All of which is interspersed with Channel 4 News celebrities whoring themselves and their credibility all for the chance to be in a real Hollywood movie. How good for you, Lisa Hughes and Paula Ebben.
Thank God they don’t pull the Boston accents out of the closet like Mel does. Not only is it off tone, it comes and goes.
Wisely, no one else in the cast tries to do what we’ve learned so few actors can. In fact, the only other accent to be detected is a British one belonging to Ray Winstone, sounding eerily like Hitchcock while stealing the movie as a shadowy figure who likes playing both sides against each other. Instead of killing Mel, as he’s assigned to do, he engages him in philosophical conversations, sometimes at the side of the Charles River with a glass of port in hand.
“You don’t know what it’s like to have a daughter,” Mel says to the suave brute. To which Winstone’s Darius Jedburgh replies, “You don’t know what it’s like not to have had children.”
The exchange, of course, occurs after Mel’s daughter is gunned down on the front porch of their home shortly after puking up Mel’s pasta dinner.
Which reminds me, bodily fluids are spilled at an alarming rate throughout, with blood, spit and even Mel’s vomit splattering across the screen. But was it the pasta that made him do it, or some nefarious scheme by his daughter’s former employers at Northmoor, an obviously evil corporation run by the even more obviously evil Danny Huston.
It’s not much of a question once they start trying to kill Mel, as he follows the disembodied voice of his dead daughter to her killers.
Mel hates himself for neglecting his darling Emma all those years. But why is it that Mel’s only memories of her are rooted in home movies filmed in May and June 1990?
Yes, the device is trite and manipulative, as is Mel’s need to play the martyr, both onscreen and off.
When you think about it, it’s kind of ironic that the man who made “The Passion of the Christ” is now begging us for forgiveness. But while Jesus might grant him his request, I, for one, think the rest of us should let him squirm.
Patriot Ledger writer Al Alexander is at email@example.com.
EDGE OF DARKNESS (R for strong bloody violence and language.) Cast includes Mel Gibson, Danny Huston, Ray Winstone. 2 stars out of 4.