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For this first time in eight years, actor Mel Gibson takes up a starring role, this time as Detective Thomas Craven in “Edge of Darkness,” a gritty, father/cop-gets-revenge, nothing-to-lose, conspiracy-theory whodunit that feels oddly like all of Mel Gibson’s other films mashed into one, sans the kilts and blue face paint.

Whether the writers intended it or not, one sequence of the film looked a lot like “Mad Max” pulling a “Lethal Weapon” on the set of “Conspiracy Theory” because the dad from “What Women Want” got as ticked off as Mel got in “Ransom.”

I even had a flashback to “The Passion of the Christ” (which Gibson directed), when Craven utters, “You’d better decide whether you’re hanging on the cross or banging in the nails” (incidentally, Gibson’s hands are seen banging in the nails in “Passion”).

The film, however, carries a certain “Edge of Darkness” itself, as it taps into the spirit of America’s festering disillusionment with its leaders in government and introduces a shockingly violent, brutal strike back against Washington corruption run amok.

But when fans around me in the theater cheered the film’s bloody conclusion, I had to wonder: Is this where America is really heading – seething vengeance against Congress?

In one respect, the film’s plot is annoyingly Hollywood: The bad guy is, of course, the greedy Big Businessmen of the industrial military complex in bed with the government through a corrupt Republican senator.

It always has to be arms companies or pharmaceutical companies, don’t ya know … and heaven forbid the money-tied congressman be a Democrat!

But when the bad guys shoot Craven’s only daughter for planning to blow the whistle on their despicable plan to kill Americans and frame Muslim extremists – yeah, there’s another political jab there, too – they unleash “Detective Mad Max” hot on their trail (and hot under the collar) to unravel their web of deceit.

And yet, while Mel is off doing his “Lethal Daddy Weapon” thing – which he does well, much to the delight of Gibson fans, with more season and refinement than his earlier days as a crazy man with a badge – the film introduces a very curious nuance: the character known as Jedburgh.

The shadowy, British-accented Jedburgh is a black ops, “you never saw me” sort of one-man cleanup crew for the government acting above the law in the name of national security.

Actor Ray Winstone plays Jedburgh with a touch of class, a dignified, intelligent man only roughened around the edges by his line of work. What makes him particularly haunting, however, is his insistence that he is a completely independent agent – in other words, he decides who’s right and wrong, a sort of moral warrior who is only supposed to carry out the U.S. government’s wishes.

This not only makes Jedburgh the voice of the film’s “moral,” it also leads him to be the catalyst of the film’s devastatingly brutal conclusion:

Staring down the barrel of Jedburgh’s gun, the frightened target pleads: “But I am a United States senator!”

To which the assassin replies, “By what standard?”

The answer to the question doesn’t bode well for the senator.

But what about the question itself? The movie audience around me was applauding Jedburgh’s question and pulling for him to pull the trigger. Does this bode well for America, when we’ll cheer for our Congressmen to get blown away in the movies?

Gibson told Fox News the film intended to tap into America’s outrage over its corrupt, unaccountable and unresponsive leaders:

“It picks the scab off the governmental, corporate paranoia – the under-the-table workings that happen,” Gibson explained. “I think we’ve lost our naiveté; I don’t think we have any pretension that what most of our leaders are doing is leading us to the slaughterhouse.”

Well, if the scab is off, then it’s time leaders began healing the wound … or the slaughterhouse may be exactly where America is headed, ala 1776.

Content advisory:

  • “Edge of Darkness” is rated R for heavy violence and language. The violence consists of fist and knife fighting, several shootings and murders. The film’s level of gore, particularly gunshots to the head and neck, is exceptionally gruesome, even for a movie of this nature. Blood and vomiting are depicted in detail.
  • The film contains dozens of hard profanities, many of which were tossed indiscriminately and unnecessarily into the script with little cause and no positive effect.
  • The movie has no overt sexuality.
  • In addition to the quote mentioned above about hanging on the cross, the film contains a few mentions of God, several uses of God’s name in vain and a fervent but hasty prayer that is difficult to hear. There is no other religious or occult content.

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