Nearly eight years have passed since Mel Gibson starred in a hit movie.
Everyone knows how he passed the time: mostly risking his career.
Gibson directed the highest grossing R-rated movie ever (The Passion of the Christ) that angered masses, followed with a noble, expensive flop (Apocalypto), filed for divorce from his wife of 30 years and fathered a child (his eighth) with a much younger lover.
Oh, yeah, Gibson also got popped for DUI in 2006 and talked sexist, bigoted trash to the arresting officers. And how was your decade?
Gibson, 54, returns to acting with a vengeance — literally — in Edge of Darkness, the sort of hardboiled action flick that initially made Gibson a star. He plays Detective Thomas Craven, whose daughter is killed by a government conspiracy.
Craven wants revenge, but since this is a Mel Gibson movie, you could expect that. Which got us thinking about those times when Gibson really is "Mad Mel," when his characters are wronged and violently make things right. Edge of Darkness should fit nicely into this list, perhaps even resurrect Gibson's reputation as box office gold.
That would be Gibson's sweetest revenge of all. A review of Edge of Darkness is available at tampabay.com/entertainment.
William Wallace, Braveheart (1995)
Who does him wrong: Oh, only all of 13th century England. Wallace is a Scottish commoner in violent opposition to the tyranny of King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan). What gets Wallace really riled, though, is his wife's kidnapping and murder.
Now hear this: "Lower your flags and march straight back to England, stopping at every home you pass by to beg forgiveness for a hundred years of theft, rape and murder. Do that and your men shall live. Do it not, and every one of you will die today."
How Mel gets even: Personally slaughtering dozens of king's men; becoming a martyr by screaming "Freedom!" just before his head's chopped off.
Officer Max Rockatansky, Mad Max (1979)
Who does him wrong: Sadistic bikers avenging their leader's death by killing Max's wife and son.
Now hear this: "Look, any longer out on that road and I'm one of them, a terminal psychotic, except that I've got this bronze badge that says that I'm one of the good guys."
How Mel gets even: Blasting one biker with a shotgun, forcing others to crash into a truck or plunge off a bridge, and handcuffing the last one to a bomb-rigged car.
Porter (tough guys don't need two names), Payback (1999)
Who does him wrong: Partner in crime Val Resnick (Gregg Henry), whose double-cross nearly kills Porter, who wants revenge and his $70,000.
Now hear this: "You'd think after five months of lying on my back, I would have given up any idea of getting even, just be a nice guy and call it a day. Nice guys are fine: You have to have somebody to take advantage of . . . but they always finish last."
How Mel gets even: Lethally sorting through various gangsters, corrupt cops and con artists until he gets his money.
Benjamin Martin, The Patriot (2000)
Who does him wrong: British troops arrest his eldest son (Heath Ledger) as a spy during the Revolutionary War, and then Col. Tavington (Jason Isaacs) murders another son during a rescue attempt.
Now hear this: "Before this war is over, I'm going to kill you."
How Mel gets even: Sticks a bayonet in Tavington's throat, making good on his threat.
Tom Mullen, Ransom (1996)
Who does him wrong: NYPD Detective Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise), who's not only investigating the kidnapping of Tom's son, he's secretly masterminding it.
Now hear this: "You kill him, you kill yourself, you (not a nice name)! Give me back my son!"
How Mel gets even: Shaker is exposed, demanding that Tom use his personal jet to aid an escape. Tom fakes a phone call to his crew but he's talking to an FBI agent, who sets up a trap, killing Shaker. Tom gets his son back.
Hamlet, the "Mel"ancholy Dane, Hamlet (1990)
Who does him wrong: His uncle Claudius (Alan Bates), who murders Hamlet's father, marries his mother and poisons the sword tip of his fencing rival, Laertes.
Now hear this: "This time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth."
How Mel gets even: Stabs Claudius with the tainted sword, then forces him to drink the rest of the poison. "The rest is silence."
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.