The Potato on the Edge…of Darkness

Mel Gibson is back in action again as veteran Boston cop Thomas Craven in Martin Campbell’s tight thriller “Edge Of Darkness”.  The story is simple: Cop tries to reconnect with his daughter, before he can, she’s gunned down outside of his home. He thinks the shot was meant for him, but as he digs deeper he finds that his daughter was not the innocent baby girl that he remembers, and goes on an increasingly futile quest for revenge against her killers.  I say futile because the movie becomes more than just a revenge tale as the plot thickens.  Evil government contractors, evil weapons corporations, dirty cops, dirty lawyers, and dirty politicians all come into play during “Edge Of Darkness”.

Even for being in his fifties, Mel Gibson looks like he’s seen better days.  I also don’t approve of his personal life choices. Going into the film, I was worried that I couldn’t divorce “Mel Gibson: Actor” from “Mel Gibson: Asshole.”  At first, when Tom tries to reconnect with his daughter Emma, all I could do was think: “I just bought a ticket to see a movie starring the guy who dislikes Jews and likes to comment on women’s body parts in a less than flattering manner.” Ok, so my thoughts were a bit harsher, but that’s not the focus…right?  I started connecting with the film as soon as Emma was brutally gunned down by a shotgun on the doorsteps of her father’s house.  Mel Gibson may be, well, Mel Gibson, but he’s still got it. His presence has only become more intense with age, and I found myself rooting for his character all the way to the film’s violent climax.  I hope this marks a return to form for the actor, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in more movies.  As far as supporting performances go, it’s hard to tell if Mel Gibson is a supporting actor in his own movie.  More characters and villains start popping up from this way and that, and they all do a fine job in their limited parts.  Danny Huston turns in another genuinely (if not over the top) evil performance as malevolent CEO of the Haliburton-esque company called Northmoor.  As government spook with a (possible) heart of gold Jedburgh, Ray Winstone sufficiently creeps and charms.  “That guy” actor Jay O. Sanders is also very good as Gibson’s friend and fellow Boston police detective with a secret of his own.

Martin Campbell could direct a movie like this in his sleep.  The action beats are all there, the sets are believable, the tension is felt, and the cinematography is solid.  Campbell has directed better in better pictures, but it’s a fine film to further pad to a great career.  The film doesn’t come close to “Casino Royale” or “The Mask of Zorro” or even “No Escape”, but it’s certainly better than “The Legend Of Zorro”, “Beyond Borders”, or “Vertical Limit”.  The script, penned by William Monahan, is full of Bostonian references, snappy dialogue and plot twists (it better be, after all, he did win an Oscar for writing “The Departed”).  Monahan could be the next David Mamet if his career continues on the same path.

Overall, I liked this film more than I thought I would, and I’m glad that I gave it a chance.   If you like action thrillers or Mel Gibson or both, I recommend renting “Edge Of Darkness”.

The Potato’s “Best” of The Decade

Ok, so there are too many films.  I wish I had a team of researchers to track down every film I have ever seen so that I could come up with a really awesome list.  In fact, I’m making it one of my resolutions for 2010.  I really do need a team of something…but I digress.  The only two criteria for the list are that the film must have been released between the years 2000 and 2009, and the film must not suck.  That’s it.  I also tried to pick films that hold some sort of significance in the film world/pop culture.  Some of my favorite films didn’t make the list, and other critically acclaimed films didn’t make the list.  I suppose I would need a top 50 in order to capture them all, but who has time for that?  In chronological order, here’s The Potato’s “best” films of the decade list:

Memento (2000)

Christopher Nolan payed homage to the classic Hitchcockian thriller while also managing to reinvent the genre.  With this film, Nolan declared that he would be one of the directors to watch in the coming years, and he delivered on that promise.

The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Peter Jackson captured lightning in a bottle three times with his Epic-with-a-capitol-E fantasy series.  In the post-9/11 world, we prefer even our diversions to be as realistic and as dangerous as ever, but LOTR dared audiences to suspend disbelief and use their imaginations once again.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wes Anderson was considered a director to watch back when he released 1996’s Bottle Rocket and 1998’s Rushmore, but this is the film that made even the mainstream film fan stand up and take notice.  A director with uncompromising, intricate visions, Wes Anderson has never been better.

28 Days Later (2002)

The film that changed horror, reinvigorated the zombie craze, and the film that made people finally appreciate how great a director Danny Boyle is.  It’s scary, it’s intelligent, and it’s a ride from start to finish.

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum (2002, 2004, 2007)

The film series that changed spy films, action films, and Bond films.  It also made Matt Damon both an action hero and earned him a spot on the moviestar shortlist.  The Bourne series convinced us that we want our heroes to be recognizable, fallible, and still extraordinary.  They are also action films that film buffs can enjoy openly.  Also, the film Casino Royale, in its current form, wouldn’t exist without this series.

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004)

Charlie Kaufman is one of the greatest screenwriters working today, and this film is the reason why.  Michel Gondry is one of the greatest directors working today, and this film is the reason why.  Both have had success before and since, but Eternal Sunshine is an achievement that transcends any lines or labels such as “indie” or “mainstream”.  The film immortalized Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey as one of the great complicated screen couples, and it revolutionized the way we think of storytelling and how it relates to human nature.

Spider-Man 2 (2002)/The Dark Knight (2008)

So this is another listing cheat.  I wanted each film to have their own spot, but we all know that superhero films have pretty much blanketed the Hollywood landscape, and we don’t need another reminder.  These two films, however, are both superb and also changed how superhero films are made.  While on both sides of the spectrum (Spidey being more comic-book-ish, Batman being darker and more realistic), both films are the benchmarks of the genre, and have not been topped since.

The Incredibles (2004)

The film that changed mainstream animation.  Pixar and Disney proved with this film that even adults could enjoy PG-rated animated action.  The visuals are eye-popping, the voice talents are awesome (with special shoutouts to Jason Lee and Craig T. Nelson as Syndrome and Mr. Incredible, respectively), and the music is super cool.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

The film that changed comedy, and also made the name “Apatow” into an adjective.  The film introduced us to Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Jane Lynch, and reintroduced us to Paul Rudd.  The film speaks for itself, since nearly every critically acclaimed comedy since has been compared to it, and will be listed as one of the most influential comedies ever made.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

The film that finally made me a forever Coen brothers devotee.  I was always a fan, but had never fully appreciated their genius until this film.  It also introduced us to one of the scariest film icons in decades, in the form of Javier Bardem’s sublime portrayal of assassin Anton Chigurrh.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

I’m sorry, Mr. Soderbergh.  If I had a top 20, you’d rule it for sure.  Same goes for Mr. Tarantino, Sr. Del Toro, Mr. Reitman, and Mr. Abrams.

Traffic (2000)

Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Juno (2007)

Star Trek (2009)