Edge of Darkness: * 3/4 (out of 4)
Well, I guess I got the bad January Movie I was hoping for.
Should I have had any hope going into the movie? Sure, I found him quite excellent in the first two thirds of the Kill The Brits Trilogy (Braveheart and The Patriot; I'm still kindof sad he never starred in Zulu), and he did a more-than-adequate job as the lead of action thrillers like Payback and Conspiracy Theory. But the last blockbuster he starred in was Signs, one of my great movie disappointments of the last decade. Was this not a hint?
Well, it should have been. Edge of Darkness is a convoluted mess - not as bad as Signs, I suppose, but pretty bad. It started with some dream sequences, followed by a bunch of slow, atmospheric detective scenes; every now and then some shadowy political intrigue was tossed in, and all of it was punctuated with short, sharp scenes of violence. This would be fine, if, say, these pieces fit together in some way. Instead, we were treated to the shock of seeing a woman suddenly and inexplicably killed, and finding that this kind of transition was as good as we were going to get.
What went wrong here? Quite simply, the movie was over-complicated; it was trying to be a Bourne movie, without the underlying sensibility or well-thought-out source material. The plot involved too many characters, split into too many factions, many of which never interacted. While there were many geographical settings, all of these locations were in New England, and didn't offer much of a sense of diversity. The "gears within gears within gears" didn't manage to hold up to the slightest scrutiny. The supporting cast was, with one small exception ("how does it feel?"), beyond generic. And the viewer was never given any reason to care - well, except that Mel Gibson was the good guy.
(At least my instincts on Mel Gibson were good - he can still act, and even offered a fairly convincing Boston accent for most of the movie.)
So, what went wrong? Well, it became pretty obvious once I discovered one fact: the movie is based on a BBC mini-series. Aah-hah! Not only did the movie suffer from the standard British-to-American conversion problems, but it was 1/3 the length! I'm sure that most of those plot points could have been properly explored and justified with adequate time. And if the number of twists in the movie felt like a season of 24, well, that's probably because that's what they were going for.
In short: this movie tried to cut down a 5 hour mini-series into a 2 hour movie, and did it very badly. And sight unseen, I recommend renting that series before watching this movie.
I should have seen Legion.
As a side-note - one of the trailers was for The Losers. I want this movie to be good, if just to encourage the creation of more Vertigo Comics movies. The trailer did not fill me with hope. Oh well.