Edge of Darkness (2010) a (mildly) belated review

Way back in the mid-1980’s and while looking through a newspaper I found a very positive review for Edge of Darkness, a mini-series that was scheduled to air on PBS.  The premise was intriguing:  A British police officer’s daughter is murdered and, in his subsequent investigation of the matter, discovers a toxic cesspool of government corruption linked to nuclear research.  I watched the series when it aired back then and though my memories of it are vague after the passage of time, I distinctly recall liking it quite a bit.  I also really, really liked Joe Don Baker’s performance within the series as Darius Jedburgh, a shady CIA operative/fixer who, over the course of the series, became a delightfully unpredictable wild-card.

Years passed and, in 2010, I heard that the mini-series’ original director, Martin Campbell, was working on a movie remake of the mini-series with Mel Gibson in the title role.  I was intrigued.  I’ve been a fan of Mr. Gibson’s work since first seeing him in the incredible Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior when it first hit theaters way back in 1981.  Of late, I’ve been equally shocked by some of the lurid details regarding his personal life.  Still, I was interested in seeing the film but, of course, didn’t find the time to do so when it was initially released to theaters.  Yesterday, I finally had a chance to see it and did just that.

The 2010 film version of Edge of Darkness retains the same general plot involving police officer Thomas Craven’s (Mel Gibson) search for his daughter’s murderers and the way it eventually ties in to a shady nuclear research facility and equally shady politicians.  The movie’s setting has been changed, transplanting the story for no discernible reason from England to Boston.

While watching the film’s first half, I thought things were unfolding quite well.  The central mystery was set up and Mr. Gibson does well providing a Boston accent and acting both filled with equal parts grief and rage as he investigates his daughter’s murder.  Unfortunately, in the film’s second half the story suffers from compressing too much material to fit the parameters of a theatrical release.  The original Edge of Darkness mini-series had the luxury of five and a half hours to tell its story.  The movie, which clocks in at just under two hours, simply doesn’t have enough time to flesh out characters and situations and provide a good wrap up in that short a period of time.

The character who suffers the greatest from this compressed storytelling is, unfortunately, the character that to me was the most intriguing in the mini-series: Darius Jedburgh.  In the movie, the role is played with considerable menace by Ray Winstone.  Unfortunately in the movie he isn’t given anywhere near enough time to develop.  In the mini-series, Craven and Jedburgh meet many times and become something of an odd-couple while pursuing the mystery of Craven’s daughter’s death.  In the movie, they meet up a total of two times.  There is more story presented with Jedburgh, but it involves his own reactions to his “bosses” and isn’t nearly as compelling as it could have been.  Anyone who hasn’t seen the original mini-series and therefore isn’t aware of how important the character of Jedburgh was in it can be forgiven for wondering just why he was present in this film at all.  He simply isn’t as necessary to this version of the story and, sadly, could well have been cut out entirely in favor of more time with Mel Gibson’s Craven.

In conclusion, what you have with the 2010 version of Edge of Darkness is a movie that starts well but simply can’t present as much plot as the original mini-series, devolving into a rather standard “good guy takes on the bad guys” story before reaching its admittedly very emotional conclusion.  Two stars out of four.

And here’s Jedburgh and Craven’s first meeting from the original mini-series: