"On paper, Edge of Darkness looks great."

Mel Gibson’s back and this time he wants …well it’s not entirely clear because Edge Of Darkness is such a tangled and muddled mess that it’s hard to tell the relevance of anything he does.

When Boston homicide detective Thomas Craven’s daughter Emma comes home to visit him from her job at a research plant called Northmoor, it seems like she needs to tell him something important.

But before she can get the words out, she’s gunned down on the doorstep.  The police initially think that Craven was the intended target but he suspects otherwise and he’s soon hot on the trail of a cover-up that goes much higher than he could have imagined.

His digging leads him to shady defence contractor Bennett (Danny Huston), who brushes him off but also spouts utter nonsense like “tell me what it’s like” when referring to the death of Craven’s daughter.  If that’s not bound to raise suspicion, then I don’t know what is.

We, as the audience are not so much kept on the edge of darkness as plunged headfirst into it and kept there for the entire duration.  Craven stalks around cracking skulls of characters that supposedly have some relevance to the plot but it seems that he always knows more than we do

One such point occurs when he tracks down a promising ex-Northmoor contact ‘Robinson’ and immediately bludgeons him into submission.  Robinson barely has time to say any thing – for all we know, he might have been at the wrong house.

On paper, Edge of Darkness looks great.  It’s got a good cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Huston and Ray Winstone.  It’s got a decent director: Martin Campbell whose last stint behind the camera brought us Casino Royale.  And the screenplay is by one of the writers of The Departed, who subsequently won an Oscar for his work (William Monahan).

Unfortunately, its execution is a terrible mess.  Nothing is ever explained – and while this can be a good technique to keep the audience guessing, it only works if there’s some pay off in the end – a clever reveal or a poignant resolution.  Edge Of Darkness ends with more loose ends than a shoelace factory.

Ray Winstone also turns up as a shady government official whose only purpose is to convolute an already confusing plot and utter the words “That’s classified” every 15 seconds, neatly covering any enormous plot holes. Actually, what does seem to be classified is the plot – so classified in fact, you never find out what’s going on.

It could have been great, but instead it’s a confusing, unsatisfying shambles of a film.