Notes on “Edge of Darkness”

Fenster writes:

I just got around to seeing Edge of Darkness, a 2010 film starring Mel Gibson as a cop out to avenge the murder of his daughter.  It had been on my list for some time since it is a Boston film and as a Bay Stater I am interested in how we are portrayed.   It is an OK film with a lot of predictable plot contrivances.  On the other hand I was intrigued not only by the local flavor but also in the relevance of the film to current political conditions.

Spoiler Alert.

Boston cop Gibson is the sole parent of an only child–a daughter in her twenties who is a graduate of MIT and works for a government defense contractor of some sort out by progressive Northampton in the western part of the state.  He is loving and protective but we sense at the outset that there is some distance between the two.  He doesn’t notice but she is also not well, and seems to have a secret.

As the two are exiting his home in the Roslindale section of Boston she is brutally gunned down on the porch.  Gibson–always good with the brutal.

His colleagues in the depahtment assume the killer was out for Gibson but Gibson soon realizes that his daughter was the target, and her killing was related to whatever secret she was harboring.  He is out for revenge.

This is familiar Gibson terrain.  Gibson seems to like revenge dramas sprinkled with the bits of ultra-violence and torture porn.  He took John Boorman’s Point Blank –a revenge drama as simple, straightforward and hard-boiled as they come, and remade it as Payback, keeping revenge as the main driver of all of the action but spicing it up with black humor and some excruciating scenes of Rococo pain and violence at the end.  Christ, he sure seems to be drawn to that stuff for some reason.

He discovers what lies behind his daughter’s murder: a plan by her employer, the evil defense contractor, to develop and supply nuclear weapons to our adversaries.  His daughter stumbles across evidence of the corrupt doings and, after trying the whistle blower path to no avail, is killed for what she knows.  Whistle blowing doesn’t work because the corruption runs too deep, extending to governmental and political forces, and including the sitting United States Senator from the Commonwealth (Damien Young).


The Senator is tall and not particularly good looking, long face and odd features.  He is shown to be very wealthy, and lives in a mansion in Back Bay.

Say that guy could be a ringer for John Kerry!


A Deep State accountable to no one in particular.  Rogue actors willing to use violence to accomplish nefarious ends.  Politicians selling out American interests for cash.  Kerry/Burisma!

Yes, we have long had a paranoid style in American movies, reaching a crescendo of sorts in the 1970s with films like The Parallax View and Winter Kills.  But this 2010 film does an awfully good job developing themes found in the news in 2020, including the whistle blower theme.

Now, the famous whistle blower of impeachment fame did in fact find a safe haven in the House Intelligence Committee chaired  by Adam Schiff and was dutifully protected by a vigilant media.  But not all whistle blowers have been so lucky, or so favored by Deep State interests.

Take Nate Cain.  He was a consultant working on informational technology for the FBI.  Like Gibson’s daughter he stumbled across things he was not supposed to know, including damning material on Hillary Clinton and the secretive planning to derail the ongoing inquiries.  If you have 45 minutes to spare you might spend it listening to an interview with Cain,here, in which he tells a story that closely resembles the situation Gibson’s daughter faced.

Of course Cain was not gunned down on his porch.  That’s progress of a sort.  But federal agents raided his house, disregarded the disclosure to them of his whistle blower status, ignored his legal rights, spooked friends and acquaintances with incessant questioning sessions that suggested he had committed wrongdoing and put him into a legal box that forced him to deplete his finances to protect himself.  They didn’t kill him but they ruined his life.  That’s how it is done in 2020.  Civilized.

So even though the plot of Edge of Darkness comes with many predictable contrivances it was worth seeing for the sake of comparing 2010’s fiction with 2020’s fact.

The screenwriter, William Monahan, is Boston born and does a good job capturing some of the Commonwealth’s tics.  In film Boston nowadays means Irish and Southie.  Monahan, who wrote the script for The Departed, places Gibson’s cop in the obscure and somewhat more lace curtain Irish neighborhood of Roslindale (now rapidly gentrifying).  Southie is film shorthand for all manner of Manichean fights between good and evil.  Billy Bulger and Whitey Bulger.  Roslindale, on the other hand, is boring but a nice place for a decent Irish cop to live.

Monahan also does a good job capturing the spirit of Northampton, a once gritty city in the Connecticut River Valley that is nowadays a kind of progressive PC utopia, courtesy of Smith College in the city and with Mount Holyoke, Amherst, UMass and Hampshire nearby.

The script is clever, too, in how it connects the dots between disparate strands of the region’s progressive academic culture.  Gibson’s daughter falls in with progressive leftists endemic to the Connecticut River Valley who are out to thwart the evil work of the defense contractor.  But the contractor is itself a creature of the science and technology emphasis in the region’s colleges and companies.

Monahan even introduces a little humor at the Commonwealth’s expense.  Here, Gibson is showing his daughter’s gun to her ex-boyfriend.


Gibson: It’s loaded.


Boyfriend: That’s illegal in Massachusetts.



Gibson: Everything’s illegal in Massachusetts.

Monahan must have gotten a kick out of that subtle skewering since he returned to the notion a few minutes later.  Gibson is sitting on a park bench with Ray Winstone.  Winstone takes out a bottle of wine to share.


Gibson: Public drinking is illegal in Massachusetts.




Winstone: Everything’s illegal in Massachusetts.


About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
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