The backstory might be the most interesting part of “Edge of Darkness,” and no, that doesn’t refer to star Mel Gibson’s somewhat checkered history. “Casino Royale” and “Mask of Zorro” helmsman Martin Campbell remakes a BAFTA award-bejeweled six-hour BBC miniseries he directed 25 years ago. Yet as with the recent “State of Play,” the miniseries-to-movie transfor standing, relatively limited action should also dampen box office prospects.
Given his association with revenge plots both as a director and an actor, Gibson’s first star turn since “Signs” and “We Were Soldiers” in 2002 is well suited and finds him in fine form. He’s Thomas Craven, a tough Boston cop, who sees his only daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), gunned down in front of him early on.
At first, the assumption is that some enemy of Craven’s must be responsible. Yet Emma’s fidgety demeanor and bouts of nausea soon point to another, more insidious culprit and a dense web of corruption — one that involves the major government-connected corporation for which she worked, headed by the imperious Jack Bennett (Danny Huston) from a sprawling hillside facility.
Craven’s search for answers also brings him into contact with a shadowy fixer named Jedburgh, wryly played by Ray Winstone, who seems content to let the cop pursue his mission so long as it doesn’t interfere with his own. Haunted by visions of his daughter, Craven assures him, “I’m not gonna arrest anyone,” but that doesn’t mean there won’t be considerable collateral damage as he begins overturning rocks.
Writers William Monahan (“The Departed”) and Andrew Bovell have done their best to update the Thatcher-era politics of the original, but they’re hampered by the glut of similarly themed fare conceived during the intervening quarter-century. They also devote considerable time to conveying Craven’s psychological torment, which resonates emotionally but frankly bogs down amid the clue-sifting and revenge-seeking aspects of the plot. In terms of consistent visceral thrills, “Taken” this isn’t — despite Campbell’s demonstrable flair for shooting action.
Darkness” is better served by its cast — with Winstone’s world-weary, conflicted character especially intriguing; it’s too bad there isn’t time for more of him. Then again, that’s true of other supporting players as well, whose motivations — including Emma’s — would surely benefit from more detail. (One amusing footnote: A senator in the movie is identified as a Republican from Massachusetts, which might have sounded laughable were it not for the unexpected results in the recent election there.)
Campbell’s topnotch production team yields predictably polished results, but the director’s decision to revisit the late Troy Kennedy Martin’s teleplay, finally, feels lacking. And while this is hardly the only mid-’80s artifact being reanimated a generation later — from the upcoming “The A-Team” to ABC’s “V” revival — “Darkness” returns with only its outlines intact, while lacking much of its edge.