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    Review: Edge of Darkness Is Mad Mel at His Maddest

    Edge of Darkness, Mel Gibson Warner Bros.

    Review in a Hurry: Five years after last appearing onscreen (as a jokey cameo in Paparazzi), Mad Mel Gibson is back, and as one might expect, he's brought with him a heaping helping of brutal violence, Catholicism and conspiracy theory. It's unfortunate he couldn't find a better script in all that time, but you can't have everything.

    The Bigger Picture: With the lines in his face now making him look like he stepped right out of a Frank Miller comic (seriously, if there's ever a Sin City 2, he needs to be in it), Gibson brings his more-convincing-than-ever loose cannon persona to the role of Thomas Craven, a traditionalist Boston cop whose teenage daughter returns home mysteriously ill, only to be shot to death on his front porch by a masked gunman.

    Craven, and everyone else, assumes he was the intended target, at least until he learns his daughter's job was a lot more top secret and high level than she told him, a gun turns up in her possessions and a big scary Englishman (Ray Winstone) starts showing up randomly to make elliptical threats.

    Distilled down from a BBC miniseries that was, like the film, directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, the forthcoming Green Lantern) feels every bit as oversimplified as it had to be to make its running time. Part of the pleasure in conspiracy tales is the slow unraveling of the mystery; here, we're pretty much given the big bad guy right up front, and have to wait forever for Craven to figure out the things that have already been more or less made obvious. Yes, some details remain to be discovered, but it does all boil down to good guy and bad guy trying to kill each other.

    Grading this movie was a tough call—upon exiting the screening, a C+ seemed about right, but the way certain scenes lingered in the memory afterward ultimately resulted in our more generous score. If you're not a Gibson fan, or if you prefer humor in his movies (or are a stickler for a better script), go with the lower grade.

    At times, it feels like the screenwriters simply played mad-libs with current newspaper headlines, though some of that is obviously coincidental timing. New Republican senator from Massachusetts? Check. Unfettered corporate ties to government? Check. Polonium poisoning? OK, that one's probably no coincidence.

    Interestingly enough, this is the first movie in memory where the director doesn't ever try to conceal Gibson's height, or lack thereof: He has never looked shorter than he does in Edge of Darkness.

    With Clint Eastwood seemingly retiring from the acting game, it's good to still have at least one aging, scowling badass who isn't afraid to unleash the righteous thunder, and it's possible Gibson's notorious DUI arrest only enhances our ability to believe he might snap and do something crazy. But assuming he finds himself enjoying the acting side of things still, we hope he'll find slightly superior material next time.

    The 180—a Second Opinion: In what feels like a lunk-headed attempt at being fair and balanced, the story introduces some loony environmental activists as some kind of counterweight to the corrupt corporatist baddies. It's clear, however, that Campbell and the writers really don't have much interest in them.

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    There's so much else to see, too—have a look in our Totally New Releases gallery!

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