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Ten Word or Less Review: Mad Mel returns with mediocre movie.

A lot of people have forgotten that only 6 or 7 years ago Mel Gibson was one of the most bankable movie stars on the planet.  Before he became a director of bloody epics, and a Jew bashing, ass clown in general, Gibson was a name who could turn something as marginal and silly as “What Women Want” into a huge success.  His decision to return to acting in “Edge of Darkness” reminds us of what screen presence and gravitas he’s capable of.  Gibson has aged a lot in his years away from the camera and he’s taken the high road about aging.  His face has become a worn structure of deep lines and wrinkles and he makes no bones about it.  His has become a great face for cinema and the camera loves it.  But despite a strong performance for his return to the silver screen he’s surrounded by a movie with no reason to exist.  “Edge of Darkness” is a bland drama/thriller that doesn’t back up its star’s return.

In “Edge of Darkness” Gibson plays Detective Craven, a Boston cop looking forward to a visit from his long absent daughter.  She’s home for no more than a few minutes before she starts vomiting profusely, and as they’re leaving the house for the hospital, she’s gun downed on his front door step.  Believing the blast was meant for him, Craven begins an investigation which leads him into his daughter’s life, one which she kept secret from him.  Instead of the mundane existence she’d painted for him he finds a daughter who had become crusader, entrenched in a fight to expose wrong doings in a nuclear facility.  It’s a sound setup for a revenge thriller and it’s capably executed in the beginning, but “Darkness” finds no new ground to cover and quickly begins to feel rote.

Adapted from a lengthy BBC miniseries, the reshuffled story feels abbreviated and routine.  Most of the parts, besides Gibson’s, are underwritten and story instills no sense of importance or consequence.  It’s populated with everyday corporate sleaze bags up to no good and menacing government agents who kill without mercy.  And despite the thriller setup “Darkness” is more a turgid drama than anything else.  Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), can’t find any rhythm or beat to the proceedings.  The movie just plays as if no one knew what to add to the screenplay to make it work.  Campbell startles the audience from time to time with jolts of energy but they’re fleeting.  As soon as they pass the story settles back into the same funk with which it started.  Despite Gibson’s best efforts and great smatterings of dialog that poke out here and there, no strong dynamic ever materializes between himself and the material.  He’s a richly realized character wondering through the wasteland of tired plot.  Most of the other characters feel unimportant to the story.  Ray Winstone, incapable of blending into the background and being unnoticed, is the only other notable presence in the film and his part makes no dramatic sense.

“Edge of Darkness” may be a pointless as a movie but if it serves only one function, to remind us that Mel Gibson can kick ass when he’s not acting like a dip shit in real life, then that’s something.  Hopefully he’ll find better material to work with and make it a point to remind the world that though Mel may be mad, he’s still worth watching as a performer.

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