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Warner Bros./AP

Off the edge

Movies | Edge of Darkness does violence to Gibson's acting comeback

Issue: "The Haiti quake," Feb. 13, 2010

Mel Gibson is back. He returns to acting in Edge of Darkness (rated R for strong, bloody violence and language), playing an intense cop tracking down his daughter's murderer. Gibson hasn't starred in a major film since 2002's Signs. His return to the silver screen has been highly anticipated, both by fans and by the Hollywood establishment sharpening its knives.

If only the movie were better.

Gibson plays Tom Craven, a stoic Boston cop with a strong moral core. His young adult daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic), home for a visit and clearly very ill, is murdered before his eyes. As an "officer involved" crime, at first everyone assumes the bullet was meant for the father and not the daughter. However, as Craven delves into his little girl's work, he finds a conspiracy that goes to the highest levels.

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Mel's still got it, except apparently the ability to pick a winning script. Nobody plays the grieving father or husband with nothing to lose like Gibson does, but the rest of the movie can't keep up with him. It's confusing. Plot points flit around like butterflies, some disappearing, never to be seen again. Characters surface without notice as to who they are, and then disappear as anonymously. A trio of bad guys can only be considered a casting error: They look enough alike that the viewer is never quite sure which person we're dealing with.

Finally, the conspiracy that cost Emma her life never really gets off the ground. We're never told how or why the bad guys do what they do. They're bad, nasty, evil, mean people, but also ludicrous, which is never something you want outside a Will Ferrell movie.

True to Mel Gibson form, the violence is relentless. From Emma's murder to the final confrontation, Craven leaves a trail of bodies and blood splatter behind him.

Perhaps all these things don't matter too much, if you sit back and don't think too hard. But Gibson needed a top-notch blockbuster to begin his comeback. This is not that movie.

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