Mr. Movie

There's definite edge to 'Edge of Darkness'

He’s back; and he’s mad, and he’s bad.

Mel Gibson — missing from the screen for the past seven years — slips easily into his most familiar role, a police detective trying to solve a brutal murder.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

The victim is his daughter, home on a visit, shot to death on his front porch. At first, he’s thought to be the target. Then, disturbing secrets are revealed about her career, her political activities and why she was murdered.

Gibson and the film’s other characters leave familiar footprints as they tromp through the mud of a well-traveled plot line: corporate corruption, political corruption, assassins working for secret organizations.

The headline hoohah of the last couple of years made most of us forget that Gibson is an exceptional actor. At one time, a successful argument could be mounted that he was the most popular actor in the world.

Gibson — if the tabloids are true — burned himself out. All we’ve seen of him in the interim involves bouts of drunken debauchery, divorce, the controversy over Christ and his film The Passion of the Christ and ugly quotes about Jews courtesy of the tabloids.

Gibson hasn’t been on-screen since 2003 when he was almost unrecognizable in a supporting gig with Robert Downey Jr. in The Singing Detective.

His last star vehicle was Signs in 2002.

It’s the little things that make his performance exceptional. Gibson is a Boston, Mass., cop. He never loses the accent. While some would view this character and this movie over the top, Gibson — and probably director Martin Campbell, too — opts for restraint.

Gibson goes for the stressed, determined bulldog approach and quietly does his business. No long speeches or emotional outbursts. Just straight-ahead acting to punctuate an action scene or two.

Supporting actors Danny Huston, Ray Winstone and the others are caricatures of hundreds of actors who have done their same roles. They underplay rather than overplay, and it works.

Campbell, who directed Casino Royale, did a British TV mini-series version of this story in 1985. As he did with the very popular Bond flick, Campbell does an outstanding job of managing on-screen tension. Five minutes into the movie and you already know where the story is headed.

To counter, Campbell has you anticipating action in every scene. You wait, you wait and you wait. When he delivers, it is intense. Bang, pow, wham.

Then, it's done and you wait some more.

It is what gives Edge of Darkness its edge.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated R for violence and mature themes. It opens Friday, Jan. 29 at Regal’s Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.