I left this movie fully expecting to spot a mysterious black SUV following me, or possibly just get shot dead when I least expect it, since that was what kept happening on the screen. It was almost two solid hours of nearly jumping out of my seat whenever someone got shot, enough time to relax very slowly and get comfy again, then another huge bang, another dead person, and me left wondering if the next such jolt would make me accidentally fling Milk Duds all over the people in the next row.
I left this movie fully expecting to spot a mysterious black SUV following me, or possibly just get shot dead when I least expect it, since that was what kept happening on the screen. It was almost two solid hours of nearly jumping out of my seat whenever someone got shot, enough time to relax very slowly and get comfy again, then another huge bang, another dead person, and me left wondering if the next such jolt would make me accidentally fling Milk Duds all over the people in the next row. If you’ve seen the previews, you know just about exactly when the first gunshot will ring out, and it still made me jump.
If you have seen the previews, you’ve also seen a couple of bits and pieces that didn’t make the final cut. I hear they did a pretty serious re-shoot/re-edit on this film to make it more action-oriented, and they succeeded there, all right. It’s based on this popular British mini-series of the same name, and you can tell that this was based on something much longer. A few times, the story leaps ahead and assumes you were paying attention to that quick reference someone made to a shack on the river a few scenes back. Don’t get me wrong; I like movies that don’t spell everything out, but you do need to pay attention to this one.
The basic plot is simple enough, though. Mel Gibson is back on the big screen again, after lying low for years, and this time he’s playing Boston homicide detective Tom Craven. His daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) works for a large, important, mysterious research facility called Northmoor. She takes a couple of days off to visit her dad, but it’s far from relaxing, even before she gets gruesomely shot. She’s rather a tiny person, but the guy who shoots her uses a very big gun.
The obvious assumption is that some disgruntled suspect or relative of a suspect was trying to kill Tom, and Emma was simply collateral damage. When Tom finds a very large (and illegal) handgun among his daughter’s things, he starts to think that assumption is too obvious, and the movie hits its stride. Actually, it breaks into a breathless run, to try to fit in most of the plot from the mini-series. But the point is, whenever you have a character who does something mysterious at a mysterious “research facility”, that’s where you should be looking for answers, and Tom looks hard. That’s his skill set, after all, hunting down killers.
Enter Jedburgh (Ray Winstone, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, and also soon to be in Percy Jackson and the Olympians). He’s called Jedburgh after the WWII British Special Operations staff who went into Europe on spying and sabotage missions. Those missions were collectively called Operation Jedburgh — your MCND trivia for the week. In the British mini-series, the character was played by Joe Don Baker, who was the CIA agent who sometimes helped James Bond back when he was Pierce Brosnan. So there, Jedburgh was the only character with a U.S. accent; this time around, Jedburgh is the only one with a British accent. He just never fits in.
Anyway, he’s asked by some Very Important People to check into the problem of Emma Craven and her enraged father, who’s already threatening people; and to clean things up as necessary. I don’t know why anyone bothers to use phrases like “clean things up” or “tie up any loose ends” any more. Everyone knows exactly what they mean, so it isn’t as if they’re being subtle. But Jedburgh starts investigating, and that’s when the body count really starts racking up.
And poor Tom can’t catch a break. His own partner wants him to lay off, Emma’s boss Jack Bennett (Danny Huston, who played Clive Owen’s cousin Nigel in Children of Men) gives him a polite runaround, and no matter how many times he asks for a glass of ginger ale, no one ever gives him one. But he perseveres, because he’s Mel Gibson, and he does play the grieving, determined father very well. His scenes with Jedburgh are great, and while it’s basically your standard conspiracy cover-up story, it’s all how it’s presented, after all.
Four idols out of five for this one. It kept me interested, it was well-acted, and it was overall a fun ride. Just hang on tightly to that box of Milk Duds.
Originally posted 2/2010. I still feel a little awkward reviewing Mel Gibson.