He has chased after his kidnapped son, watched his wife murdered by English soldiers and become one, unstable, half of a cop duo. Now, after seven years absent from the big screen Mel Gibson (or “Mad Mel” as he has been named) returns as cop father Thomas Craven investigating the brutal murder of his young daughter (Bojana Novakovic). Behind the camera is Martin Campbell, responsible for updating James Bond not once but twice (first with Goldeneye, my favourite Bond film, and then again with Casino Royale 11 years later). My admiration for his work in the Bond franchise is one reason I looked forward to this thriller. Campbell also directed the original BBC television series of the same name back in 1985 (a show which I am admittedly too young to remember).
Shortly after Craven’s daughter arrives at her father’s home she is gunned down on the doorstep after being violently ill at the dinner table. Was her death a random act or was there something more sinister behind it? It soon becomes clear that the answer is the latter.
The story is certainly a gripping one and slickly directed by Campbell. The early murder scene slowly builds itself up and then occurs with shocking effect and efficiency. As Mel uncovers a web of complex lies there is a real sense of mystery regarding what exactly the daughter was involved in.
The problems however lie largely in the supporting characters, which often look like they have come straight out of “Spy Thriller” school. Subsequently there is next to no subtlety. For instance when we first see Danny Huston as the shady owner of an organisation (complete with a slick suit), it is impossible not to instantly suspect him. Similarly Ray Winston’s character is another classic example of someone from a Spy Thriller. Meeting on park benches and in car parks at the dead of night is hardly something new. The dialogue is often delivered in a classically melodramatic manner (i.e. whispering very loudly), which, at times, seems clichéd in today’s cinema.
Similarly one has to overlook the occasional lapses in creditability. The early discovery of a weapon by Gibson would surely have been discovered by the police beforehand? Couldn’t the sound of a speeding car be heard earlier than demonstrated here? Oh well.
The performance by Mel himself is fine, although, like other members he is sometimes guilty of overacting, particularly as his main expression is the tense, serious ‘Mel’ face we have seen many times before. On a side note I do not think I have ever seen Gibson appear so physically short in any other film.
Whilst I may sound like I am being overly critical, I have to admit that I was never bored during the film and, despite all the above problems, I still found myself entertained. As a straight forward revenge thriller, whilst not perfect, it does have an enjoyment factor… and Mad Mel is always watchable.