| Oscar winner Mel Gibson (“Braveheart,” “The Patriot” and “Lethal Weapon”) is back in a lead role after a nearly eight-year hiatus since starring in “Signs” (2002).
He plays Boston homicide detective Thomas Craven, who experiences a father’s worst nightmare when his 24-year-old daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic from “Drag Me to Hell”) is gunned down on his front porch. He cradles her in his arms and cries like a baby. This moment evokes empathy and puts the audience in his corner for the remainder of the movie.
After overcoming the initial shock, he doggedly investigates the murder.
Gibson has not lost his thespian touch. He is in virtually every scene. He uses the physical attributes of his weathered face and large frame along with a New England accent to embody this menacing presence that walks and talks tough. He wears a rumpled raincoat like the Columbo character made famous by Peter Falk and his favorite drink is ginger ale.
Despite feelings of grief and loss, Craven realizes he knows very little about his daughter’s life. He meets her frightened boyfriend (Shawn Roberts) and the sleazy CEO (Danny Huston from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and son of Hollywood titan John Huston) at Northmoor, her corporate place of employment. He also crosses paths with a shadowy government operative (Ray Winstone from “Sexy Beast”) assigned to clean up this bloody mess affecting national security.
The fun of this brain teaser is putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. There are a few bursts of explosive action, but the spine-tingling suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat as Craven gets closer to the truth.
This political conspiracy thriller is based on the hugely popular and multi-award-winning 1985 British television mini-series written by the late Troy Kennedy Martin (in whose memory the movie has been dedicated) and directed by Martin Campbell. Campbell is noted for directing two James Bond films (“Casino Royale” and “GoldenEye”) and two Zorro movies (“The Legend of Zorro” and “The Mark of Zorro”). He returns to the director’s chair for this well-executed condensed American remake with an intelligent screenplay written by Oscar winner William Monahan (“The Departed” and “Body of Lies”) and Andrew Bovell (“Lantana”).
Composer Howard Shore (“The Departed”) provides a brilliant, non-intrusive original musical score that is effectively played at appropriate times.
The movie takes a cynical approach to politics and corporate malfeasance. The need for security clearances and the often-used phrase of “it’s classified” put up roadblocks, hindering the search for answers as to whodunit and why.
Gibson delivers some great lines in the movie. The best one has to be: “You had better decide whether you’re hangin’ on the cross or bangin’ in the nails,” delivered to a senator from Massachusetts.
The only weakness is that some of the dialogue is spoken in hushed tones as if the actors don’t want the audience clued in on the secrets. Winstone has a tendency to mumble and combined with his British accent key lines are lost in translation.
The movie was filmed in Massachusetts with several scenes of Boston and the Berkshires.
The movie is different from last year’s action-packed “Taken” starring Liam Neeson and more similar to “State of Play” (also based on a popular BBC television series), with slow-burning layers of mystery surrounding an emotional center.
Gibson’s successful return to the screen mirrors Clint Eastwood’s performance in “Gran Torino.”
Despite putting his credibility at stake with anti-Semitic remarks and an arrest for drunken driving, you can’t deny Gibson’s star power and ability to get audiences to root for his character to prevail over the rotten-to-the-core bad guys.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"