Apocalypto Now: Meet the 'New and Improved' Mel Gibson

Gibson responded, “I think I’m the same person I always was.” Well, this didn’t quite fit the transformation narrative, so the reporter tried a different angle. "Do you think the public will perceive you any differently after all that's been in the news about you?” Richards asked.

“That's almost four years ago, dude," Gibson shot back. "I've done all the necessary mea culpas. Let's move on." Making amends is apparently like going to traffic school. But did the public buy it? Was his mea culpa tour sincere and credible and persuasive? This recent series of interviews suggests otherwise.

The next question: had the public forgiven him? He responded by asking Richards, without any hint of irony: “What specifically are you referring to?” There was a moment of awkward silence. And then Gibson started laughing nervously. It was almost too painful to watch.

Duncan Shepherd, film critic for the San Diego Reader, adds some perspective:

People who can no longer look at Mel Gibson without hearing in their mind’s ear some of his more unfortunate turns of phrase from the arrest report have a choice to make: either hereafter avoid the tabloids or avoid the movies.

“Tabloids” was an unfortunate choice, a loaded term that seems to mock the public’s interest in this issue; certainly Gibson’s troubles were covered by the mainstream press in addition to the “less savory” media that Shepherd has in mind.

What do the media want from Gibson? Maybe it’s not his style to “open up,” to analyze himself too closely, to have long, searching conversations with members of the media. I can appreciate that. But it doesn’t give you a license to be a jerk. No one forced him to do the interview. You’d think an actor would cope more deftly with the tough questions, especially when he knows they’re coming his way.

At the end of the WGN-TV interview, while the microphone was still on, Gibson could be heard calling Richards an “a-hole.” That’s right, real men don’t do transformation.

Where did his sense of entitlement come from? If you want to promote a movie, you can pay for your airtime and control the content and the message. We all know that’s called advertising; and if you are invited to appear on the news to promote your movie, that’s publicity. You are a guest in someone else’s home.  And yes, that means you must be on your best behavior even when you don’t like the question. We recall Gibson’s advice to Tiger Woods: "You have to deal with it like a man." Being thin-skinned and obnoxious? Mel Gibson has redefined what it means to man up.

In 1987’s Lethal Weapon, Gibson’s detective Martin Riggs sits in his mobile home with a beer in one hand and a pistol in the other. I don’t think suicide would be considered manning up, but I do know this: the Riggs character engendered the audience’s sympathies and made us root for him. Right now the same cannot be said of the Mel Gibson the person.

The irony is that the critics’ respect for Gibson as an actor and producer has only grown over the years. He’s challenged himself time and again and has amassed a nice portfolio of work. And with Edge of Darkness, he appears again to have done himself no disrespect.

Film critic Duncan Shepherd finds Gibson a sympathetic character:

The thinning hair, the sagging jowl, the three deep horizontal grooves in his foreheads crossed with two vertical diagonals give him a humanity that is vital to the grieving avenger. ... [He] is very believable when angry. He wears the role well.

Once a leading man that caused women to swoon, maybe it’s time for Gibson to become a character actor. That’s not so bad. And after all, he is one heck of a character.