Has Hollywood run out of plots? Or is the BBC getting more savvy about marketing? The jury is out but the raiding of the British TV archives for Hollywood movie ideas continues to pack a punch. This Icon/BBC movie sticks fairly faithfully to the plot of my favourite ever BBC serial drama – also called “Edge of Darkness” – but brings in dollops of sentimentality which tugged at my heart-strings, mercilesssly.
I couldn’t help but think of the similar dumbing down of “State of Play”, which was another great British TV serial reduced (made “lite”) for a big-budget movie. I liked the Hollywood film, but it led me to buy the original TV series and enjoy Paul Abbott’s fabulous conspiracy thriller all over again as a superior achievement. I am yet to buy the Hollywood movie, although it’s available.
In the 1985 BBC six-episode serial “Edge of Darkness”, a magnificent Bob Peck plays an anguished policeman dad, who uses his experience to delve into the death of his activist daughter. This leads him into the wrong-doings of the nuclear industry and the collusion of government.
Mel Gibson takes Bob Peck’s role. I am not a big Mel Gibson fan, except for “Mad Max”. I keep confusing him with Harrison Ford. Yes, I know they don’t look alike but they have spent my whole adult life cornering the market in slightly off beat and maverick leading men.
Ray Winstone is excellent as the British “security expert” brought in to help resolve the “problems”. In the original, the part was played by Joe Don Baker as American.
The action is exciting and the sentimentality is genuinely affecting – but this movie Americanises a very British set of sensibilities.The daughter (played by “Drag Me To Hell’s Bojana Novakovic) is an “ordinary” worker who stumbles onto possible evil. Comparing her to Joanne Whalley’s achievement as zealot Emma Craven in the original TV series isn’t even possible. Joanne is just amazing and Bojana is – er – “lite”.
At least she gets to keep the name of “Emma Craven”. Clearly, “Ronald Craven” was just too English a name for the American market, so Mel gets to be “Thomas” instead. There may be a new drinking game to be played in trying to figure out how often Mel Gibson plays an American good guy up against British bad guys in movies or, indeed, how often Ray Winstone has now been British bad guy, with redeeming qualities.
Having said all of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Boston and upstate Massachusetts look wonderful and the film moves along at a cracking pace. There’s a slowish bit in the middle but do not get excited and think it will become thoughtful. It’s just the set up for more action.
I don’t think anyone could hate this. But I am going to see if I can buy the original TV series. That affected me profoundly and this just passed the time, perfectly pleasantly but will not stay in my thoughts very long. There are some great lines and some interesting questions asked. Basically, I would much rather have steak, but this is a perfectly good burger with all the trimmings.