Mel's next seen!
A JoBlo reader was lucky enough to catch the first ever test screening of Mel Gibson's return to acting in EDGE OF DARKNESS. The film, directed by Martin Campbell and based on a BBC miniseries of the same name, is Gibson's first starring role since 2003's SIGNS. Was it good? Did it suck? Read on to find out what "Marlowe" thought about the film (though be warned, he treads somewhat heavily into spoiler territory...).
Just saw the first screening ever of Mel Gibson's comeback film EDGE OF DARKNESS. Definitely a work in progress, it wasn't color-timed, had temp-music, etc. Martin Campbell the director was there. Lots of nervous looking suits as well. The usual drill.
Massive spoilers ahead... but I will try to contain them and spare the story...
In the film Mr. Moonshadows plays a police officer called Craven. The film starts slowly, Melvin Gibson/Craven picks up his daughter at the train station (I think) and they go home... strangely she's throwing up what seems to be blood and Mel doesn't bat an eye lash... it's obvious he loves his daughter, she's the only thing left in his life. They are having supper when she begins bleeding from her nose and then profusely vomits lots of blood into her plate. In agony, she screams that she needs to get to hospital and that she has something important to tell her dad. They step outside on the porch and a car speeds by, the mysterious driver sceams out: CRAVEN! And blasts the daughter square in the chest with a shotgun. Instant death. It's gory and graphic and very shocking and unexpected. Mel cradles his dead daughter and this is the first 10 minutes of the film.
The Mrs and myself thought we were in for a real treat... but alas that was not to be. I'm a big Mel Gibson fan. Grew up on the Lethal weapons, Braveheart, Mad Max... hell, I even liked CONSPIRACY THEORY. I liked APOCALYPTO and thought the Jesus torture-fest was brave filmmaking. But why Melvin chose this as his comeback film befuddles me. It's not a bad film, it's just so-- mediocre... and there are lots of plot holes.
I will mention the first and most glaring one: After his daughter is gunned down, everyone assumes that the shooter meant to kill Mel. They think it's a botched cop killing. Sounds reasonable but.... right before she was killed, the daughter was coughing blood, begging to be taken to the hospital and desperately wanted to tell her dad something really important, just as she's about to tell Mel, blam! She's gunned down. What would you do if you were a cop who saw his daughter projectile vomiting blood. Did someone in the audience say: "Maybe call for an autopsy?" Is that what Mel does? No. Instead, he goes to the morgue to identify her body (she died in front of him?!?!? Why does he need to identify her!?), Mel cuts a lock of his daughter's hair (at the morgue) as a keepsake and THEN HAS HER CREMATED!!!!
The DVD box art for the BBC original series
We're about 15 minutes in and I'm angry at Mel and the filmmakers. This is a problem that should have been caught at the script level. Now the reason they cremate her is to drag out the mystery. Because if they perform the autopsy, they would find out a very important clue that would showcase the apparent botched cop killing in very different light. So instead, they drag out the "mystery" and we get to see interminable scenes of barefoot Melvin on the beach grieving for his daughter and pouring her ashes into the ocean. Why the ocean? Who cares, it's a nice visual. At this point I can't believe that William Monanhan (Departed) wrote this script (maybe he needs to adapt more Asian cop films)...oh, did I mention that Melvin is a Boston cop with a full blown Bostonian accent...the accent is not bad, it's not good, it just feels forced.
Anyhow, after all the grieving, Mel goes to his daughter's apartment and empties out her backpack and finds a Geiger counter which starts going crazy when he brings it close to his jacket... what does he have in his pocket? The sheared lock of his daughter's hair! LAME plot device alert. Mel starts to put the pieces together. His daughter was a scientist/slash activist (to be honest it was never made clear and was very muddled, we never even get a flashback that explains her involvement... I know flashbacks are weak sauce storytelling wise but I felt like I needed one. At this point, the Mrs was completely lost and losing interest quick.)
Anyhow, so Mel realizes that his daughter, who was a disgruntled scientist was poisoned with radiation. How she got poisoned was clever and I won't reveal it.
Did I mention that Ray Winstone is also in this as some high level cleaner who befriends Mel, but we're not really sure who's side he's on. His character is really under-developed and Ray's talent is wasted. You can see why Bobby De Niro high-tailed it out of this production. There was nothing there for him to work with in terms of character. I love Winstone but he needs to stop appearing in lame supporting roles (Indiana Jones and the Broken Hip of Destiny, sorry I had to throw that one in for old time's sake).
Eventually, Mel finds out that his daughter was working for General Stryker (Danny Huston) in another asshole role. Stryker owns some kind of nuclear power plant (I wasn't sure what it was but if people try to sneak into the compound, they release radiated steam to poison them or some shit like that).
I don't want to spoil the rest but Melvin takes charge of the situation... he wants revenge real bad and several people come to a very bloody and very gory end. One thing I've always loved about Mel is his penchant for gory violence and he doesn't shy away from it here. There are two genuinely shocking moments of violence that made me jump in my seat. And we see glimpses of the mad man Riggs in a few scenes... in fact, I wish Melvin would make another lethal weapon after seeing what a tough guy he can still be. Melvin looks like he can kick Bruce Willis' ass anytime. Anyhow, I digress.
This is a revenge film, pure and simple. Not much character development for Melvin's character. Once again, I'm not sure why this film spoke to him...
Basically, I can't give this film a good grade. It just felt too ordinary. Not special enough, even with Mel in it. I wish he would've chosen something else as his comeback vehicle. There is still much work to be done and the film could be made into something somewhat enjoyable with a few edits to clarify what's going on. But overall, it was an underwhelming exercise, especially considering the talent involved. It was bad, it wasn't good, it was blah. And blah is terrible place to be.