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Thursday, October 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Overcast
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Mel Gibson shows his age in Edge of Darkness
An older, slower icon

Adapted from a BBC television drama, Edge of Darkness is Mel Gibson's first major film since his scandalous roadside ranting and arrest in July 2006. He plays Thomas Craven, a Boston police detective who reunites with his college-age daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) hours before she's gunned down on the Craven family front porch by an unknown assailant. Essentially, Edge of Darkness is a man vs. system film, with Gibson going up against a U.S. senator (Damian Young) and a heavily fortified Massachusetts-based nuclear weapons research and development corporation. That shadowy company, Broadmoor, is headed by Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), a patently insane CEO with some serious missile-envy issues but no scruples to speak of.

Add to this mix various shadow agents of the U.S. government who are working to shape Thomas Craven's tragedy so that some seriously evil deeds will not reflect back upon their bosses (i.e. the president), and you've almost got the right ingredients for a fine, edgy BBC miniseries.

As directed by Martin Campbell, Edge of Darkness has the look and feel of a Brit film shot in America - it's all dark, boxy rooms with powerful white men in impeccable black suits discussing how to tidy up the minor mishaps of their game over brandy and cigars. But Campbell, who helmed the terrific James Bond reboot Casino Royale, can milk suspense and a smattering of action out of practically anything, and he forces Gibson into the frame as much as possible.

But the actor looks old and rundown here, and it's not just the makeup department adding layers of faux-grief to his character. Gibson is no longer the man who played Aussie police officer Max Rockatansky or Lethal Weapon's crazy man Riggs. He moves slowly, haltingly, and his face has become a roadmap of pitted age-lines overcast by a small sprinkling of gray hair. He seems chastened and humbled by his strange Hollywood thrill ride. And that makes his character more sympathetic and more human.

Edge of Darkness is a tentative, middling comeback. Still, it's a fascinating portrait of a Hollywood icon doing his best to tiptoe back into the audience's good graces. And Gibson, a blue-eyed charmer to the bitter end, almost manages it.

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