The Cold Light of Day isn’t so much a terrible film as it is a terribly bland one. It’s a thriller that thinks it’s enough to have a few pretty people and locations in it to be good and doesn’t bother with things like plot or characterizations. It runs through its quick 93 minute runtime without ever doing much of anything, despite numerous chases, shootouts and fistfights. It’s one of those movies that somehow manages to gather up a decent cast, but doesn’t know what to do with them. By the time it ends, your mind will have done one of two things: wandered off into non-movie related thoughts or drifted to sleep.
The film takes place in Madrid, where Will (Henry Cavill) is meeting up with his family for a vacation. He’s picked up at the airport by his hardened dad, Martin (Bruce Willis), who he doesn’t get along with too well, while the rest of his family, including his mother, brother and his brother’s girlfriend are waiting for him on their boat. After a brief fight and inconsequential plot turns, like Will’s business going bankrupt back home, Will decides to jump off the boat, swim to shore and go into town to buy a few things. When he returns to the beach he emerged from, the boat is gone. When he finds it down shore some time later, he discovers it has been rummaged through and his family is missing. He eventually runs into his dad who admits to him that he’s actually a CIA agent and someone is after him for a briefcase with mysterious contents that he doesn’t have anymore. Unless he can get these people that briefcase, their family is going to die. Martin eventually meets up with his partner, Carrack (Sigourney Weaver), hoping she’ll have it, but he is suddenly murdered by someone off in the distance. All of a sudden, Will is on his own and on a mission to find that briefcase and save his family.
The Cold Light of Day, just to put it into perspective, is the worst thriller to come out since last year’s awful Abduction, which managed to make it to my Worst of the Year list. This isn’t quite that bad and its flaws don’t shine through so noticeably. Most aspects of the film don’t work, but they generally aren’t terrible; the problem is all of those flaws add up to make a mostly dismal film. Bruce Willis, for instance, isn’t necessarily a bad actor, but he’s usually called upon to do little more than smirk and shoot guns, which he does as competently as anyone working in the movies today, but even he looks bored here. He delivers his lines as dryly as he ever has, with so little enthusiasm that when his character is killed off, it’s somewhat of a small relief, in that we won’t have to witness his half-hearted approach to an already underdeveloped character. Henry Cavill, similarly, doesn’t do much to make us care, failing to prove he’s worthy of carrying an entire movie, which doesn’t bode well for next year’s highly anticipated Man of Steel. Cavill is the type of actor, at least as suggested by this movie and last year’s underwhelming Immortals, that thinks speaking louder equates to anger emoting, which isn’t always the case. Hopefully under the guide of visionary and unique director Zack Snyder, he’ll do more than he does here, which is close to nothing.
To be fair, not all of the blame can be placed on him. The direction by Mabrouk El Mechri, whose only other notable film is JCVD, is lost behind the camera, failing to bring forth any sense of excitement or momentum, and the script is a complete mess, putting our hero into so many outlandish situations, it becomes far too unbelievable to follow with any sense of interest. Will is little more than a mild mannered Wall Street trader, but he survives jumping off a building and slamming into the concrete, multiple car and motorcycle crashes, some severe beatings and even a bullet in the back. James Bond wouldn’t have survived this guy’s adventure. To make matters worse, the film builds a mystery around the contents of the briefcase that you want to solve, but then never provides a payoff. When Will asks at the end what was in it, a random government agent answers in a cryptic I’ll-have-to-kill-you-if-I-tell-you sort of way.
When thinking back upon it, it’s an amazing accomplishment to manage to keep the viewer interested in what’s in that briefcase despite their general disinterest in nearly everything that’s happening, yet they still blow it in the end. Here’s a film that shows its cards early on (and whatever it doesn’t show is extremely easy to figure out), but keeps one hidden only to never reveal it. With such a disappointing ending and nothing going on before it, one can’t help but wonder what the point of it all is. The Cold Light of Day is such a jumble of dull action platitudes and listless goings-ons that even its extras are unconvincing—who knew it was so hard to stand idly by a bar?
The Cold Light of Day receives 1/5