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Mel Gibson Back on Screen as an Actor — Are You Ready for it?

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Forgiveness doesn't come cheap in Hollywood. It helps if your films make money. It doesn't help if you're pulled in on a DUI, as Mel Gibson was two years ago, and rant to LAPD cops that Jews are "responsible for all the wars in the world." He soon apologized, met with Jewish leaders, and underwent treatment for alcoholism. But a bad taste lingered, fostered by previous charges of anti-Semitism against The Passion of the Christ, the religious lightning rod Gibson directed in 2004 and turned into the highest grossing ($370 million) R-rated film of all time. But now, after directing Apocalypto in 2006, Gibson has announced his return to ACTING! In August, he will travel to Boston to begin Edge of Darkness, starring as a cop who uncovers deep layers of corruption while investigating the death of his activist daughter. Adapted by Departed Oscar winner William Monahan from a 1985 BBC miniseries, the film — directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) — will put Gibson's mug on screen for the first time in six years.

That's how long it's been since Gibson emoted in We Were Soldiers and the scary hit, Signs. Just last year, the fifty-two-year-old actor had expressed reluctance about returning to acting: "I think I'm too old for that, but you never know. I guess I'll probably do it again before it's over. You know, do something that people will get mad at me for." So there you have it. Are you mad as hell at Gibson and you're not gonna take him anymore? Or do you think his talent is enough to ease you past his troubled soul?

Detractors say that Gibson won't be able to cut it now with the fading of his pretty-boy looks. Of course, Gibson's charm could lift films as slight as Air America, Maverick and What Women Want. But I've always felt Gibson impressed most as an actor when he erased vanity from the equation. He's terrific in the first Lethal Weapon, making his cop character suicidally bonkers. Gibson likes taking risks — hell, he played Hamlet. What is the performance that best shows Gibson's talent and daring as an actor? Beyond the thunder of the Oscar-winning Braveheart, the first and second of the Mad Max trilogy, and the first of Lethal Weapon quartet, there's vivid work in Gallipoli, Tim, The Year of Living Dangerously, Mrs. Soffel, The Bounty, The Man Without a Face, Ransom, Payback and the last two — We Were Soldiers and Signs. I think Gibson was digging deeper as an actor just when he decided to switch to directing. For me, the idea that Mel Gibson is trying for an acting comeback in Edge of Darkness is damned encouraging. What's going on in your head?

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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