Edge of Darkness & When In Rome

Danny Huston and Mel Gibson in Edge of DarknessEdge of Darkness

2 stars

I had high hopes for this one. Martin Campbell has a proven track record of compelling action thrillers (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) and Mel Gibson has a solid track record in this genre (Payback, Ransom) . The British series this is based on is solid, and Campbell even had directing duties on it. But something got lost in translation.

After the murder of his daughter, Emma, Detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) sets out to get to the bottom of it, determined to prove that the intended targeted was her all along, and not him. This leads to uncovering corporate weapons manufacturing, and shady ties between a Senator (Damian Young) and a CEO (Danny Huston). Craven goes on a rampage to bring to light the truth behind his daughter’s senseless murder.

On the surface, this looks like they combined two of last years underrated gems, Taken and State of Play, and you’d be right to draw that comparison. But unfortunately, where those two succeeded, this one utterly fails. The action plays out like a paint by numbers revenge actioner, but who ever was painting didn’t really care about matching numbers and colours. Gibson moves through the film with a wink and a nod, as if to say “Remember when I was a big action star?” He’s finally lived up to what he’s been saying throughout the Lethal Weapon films, he’s too old for this shit.

The political aspect of it is lazily drawn, following an obviously, and ultimately unresolved (or, at least, resolved in an unsatisfactory manner) arc. Too many questions left unanswered, threads left untied, evil left unpunished.

Gibson’s been out of the acting game for 7 years, last appearing (in a non-cameo) in 2003’s The Singing Detective, and his rusty chops show through. He probably should have eased himself back into the game, instead of jumping in with a headlining role. Huston is, as always, given too little to do. He’s one of the more fascinating second fiddles in the game today, but his role is never fully realized, unfortunately. The saving grace was the always dependable Ray Winstone, as mysterious G-Man Jedbergh. He steals every scene he’s in.

Ultimately, what we’re left with is the remnants of what could have been a good movie. If you must see this, wait for the DVD.

Kristen Bell & Josh Duhamel in When In RomeWhen In Rome

1 star

Two stars of criminally underrated and long canceled shows, Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel (Veronica Mars and Las Vegas) join forces for a transcontinental romantic comedy. Unfortunately its downfall comes in the form of a terrible script and an even worse supporting cast.

Beth (Bell), a successful New Yorker unlucky in love (which, according to movies, is ALL New Yorkers), travels to Rome for her sister’s wedding, and meets the completely charming Nick (Duhamel), former roommate of the groom.  But after stealing a few coins from the fabled Fountain of Love, she now has to combat unwanted suitors under a love spell, and decide if the Nick romance is for real, or because he could be under the spell, too.

I said in my review for Leap Year that a romantic comedy relies heavily on the chemistry between the two leads. There was plenty in Leap Year. And just as much, if not more in When In Rome. But while Leap Year focuses primarily on the two, When In Rome features a large supporting cast. A supporting cast of caricatures and archetypes, played by people with varying degrees of talent. On the more positive side we have Will Arnett, Danny DeVito and Anjelica Huston. On the other end of the spectrum lies Dax Shepard and Jon Heder (how they keep getting work, I really don’t know). And the Bell/Duhamel dynamic just wasn’t enough to keep the film afloat.

But Bell, she’s as chirpy as ever, and it’s hard not to fall in love with her. But really, it was gag after gag after pratfall after hack joke to move the plot along. As if they were concerned about the plot. At the end, director Mark Steven Johnson said “Oh and by the way, all these characters have back stories we need to wrap up.” That’s about it, in my best estimation. Because no where in the movie did they have character development until the end when they were wrapping things up.

It’s a big sloppy mess of a film that begs the question, “I wonder what Bell and Duhamel could do with a good script and competent directing?” They could probably make a good movie. And I would like to see that movie.

But not this one. Avoid.


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