'Darkness' brightens Gibson's career

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Mel Gibson isn't as likeable as he once was. Drunken antics tend to take the shine off your star -- even in Southern California (aka Lala Land).

And all this makes it a bit more difficult for Gibson to convince us, the audience, he's a guy we can root for on the big screen.

Yet Gibson did just that in "Edge of Darkness."

Ironically, it wasn't Gibson's penchant for alcohol-induced rants that made it difficult to win over the audience. It was the film's slow and sometimes disjointed plot.

As the film opens we see Thomas Craven (Gibson) waiting to pick up his 24-year-old daughter. It's instantly clear he adores the young woman. It's also clear that as a single dad he dedicated his life to raising his daughter and making her a success. She is a brainiac who earned her degree at MIT.

Anyway, Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is happy to be home but something is bothering her. Soon she starts feeling sick and vomiting. Blood starts dripping from her nose.

She tells her dad she needs to go to the hospital and she needs to tell him something. Emma and Thomas Craven walk out the door as a masked man fires a shotgun into her chest.

Craven, a Boston Police Department detective, assumes he was the target. So, too, do his buddies on the force.

But as Thomas starts going through his daughter's backpack and other belongings he begins to wonder whether Emma was the target. She worked at a private scientific lab, which has many huge contracts with the federal government.

What was going on at the lab? Did Emma have information that someone didn't want out?

Craven suspects that's the case, and a mysterious stranger, played by Ray Winstone, offers him a few insights that point him in a direction.

Is it the right direction? We aren't sure as the stranger might be setting up Craven.

Finding out what's really going on is interesting. Unfortunately, this thriller unfolds far too slowly. The film is also a bit choppy.

It appears as if some scenes were cut to tighten up the film, but important pieces of information were cut with them. That information was then added in spots that didn't make a lot of sense.

This film is difficult to follow because it's not built on a solid script or great direction.

Still, Gibson is a sympathetic and likeable character. We understand where Craven is coming from, and we are rooting for him to find justice. And, frankly, we want him to be the one to dispense justice.

Given that, I would say "Edge of Darkness" is worth seeing. It's a good, not great, film.

And Gibson, erratic behavior aside, is a first-rate actor.

Rick Eskil can be reached at rickeskil@wwub.com or 509-526-8309.

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