There's a place in the world for incredibly generic action thrillers. Normally, it's the direct-to-DVD rack at Best Buy, but on a few rare occasions, an utterly bland script gets a big enough budget and some stars to get a spot in theaters.
"The Cold Light of Day" fits nicely into this subcategory of vanilla action films. It boasts some well-known actors (Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Henry Cavill), and the lack of publicity ensures the film will be doomed at the box office. However, even with the bar set so low an ant would struggle to get under it, this incredibly incompetent thriller still manages to fall short of its almost non-existent expectations.
Cavill stars as Will, a bland young Wall Street trader heading out to Spain for a relaxing sailing vacation with his family, including his constantly disapproving dad (Willis). Things get significantly less comfortable, however, after Will returns from town one afternoon to find the family's boat completely abandoned. It turns out Will's family has been kidnapped by some CIA thugs who want a briefcase from Willis' secret CIA past. It's up to Will, with the help of a mysterious local woman (Veronica Echegui), to get the briefcase and free his family (and his brother's girlfriend, who was along for the trip, but no one seems to care about her very much).
The set-up isn't particularly new and offers nothing in terms of surprises. In fact, the only surprising thing about "The Cold Light of Day" is how inept its routine basic story elements are handled. The establishment of Will's family in the beginning is very clunky, consisting almost entirely of shots of an grumpy, unshaven Willis looking disappointed. Audiences will share that look of disappointment as well when they find out Willis is only in the movie for the first act.
Thanks to the weak establishing scenes, the audience doesn't care much about Will's dilemma, and as the story goes on and becomes more convoluted, even that dwindling interest will fade away. The script, written by Scott Wiper and John Petro, is remarkably vague about who is chasing who and what the stakes are. The cops seem to be after Will, but we don't really know why. Will also keeps talking about running out of time, though a timeframe for retrieving the briefcase hasn't been established either. It's hard to care about the story when the scriptwriters themselves don't seem to care much either.
The audience can only hope the action makes "The Cold Light of Day" worthwhile, but that falls on its face as well. Director Mabrouk El Mechri (who previously directed the strangely fascinating Jean Claude Van Damme meta-thriller "JCVD") shows very little skill behind the camera for basic techniques, much less slick action. An early nighttime chase scene is so poorly lit, it's almost impossible to see what's happening (Unfortunately, it's also Bruce Willis' lone action scene. It's extremely dark, though, so for all I know, it could have been somebody else). The rest of the action scenes, though better lit, don't fare much better with El Mechri's tendency for Bourne-light shaky cam.
El Mechri doesn't have much talent for working with his actors as well. Every performance in the movie seems bored or flat. Willis just stares angrily with no hint of the charisma that made John McClane so revered. In his last film before he takes the title role in next year's "Man of Steel," Cavill seems lost and aimless. The story doesn't help him much there â€“ it often doesn't seem to know what Will is supposed to be doing next â€“ but he's about as colorless an action hero as you can get. Most embarrassing is Sigourney Weaver, who is clearly as uninterested with the film as the audience.
It's remarkable to see a movie that aims so embarrassingly low and still struggle to hit the mark. "The Cold Light of Day"'s lone redeeming element is that it's so generic and so by-the-books that it's instantly forgettable.
The most interesting (though interesting probably isn't the right word) aspect of the film is the release. After months of plans for a limited release, Summit decided to throw the barely advertised thriller into several more theaters. Perhaps they should have taken a page from "The Apparition's" book (that's the only time I'll say that) and buried this damp squib where it couldn't see the light of day.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Jan. 26, 2015
The brand new event is a weekend-long local music extravaganza running from Friday, Feb. 27 through Sunday, March 1, with 70 bands and 15 artists spread across three neighborhoods -- Bay View, Riverwest and the East Side -- and 15 venues. If that sounds cool, its motives (besides providing a ton of music) are even more so.
Published Jan. 26, 2015
As a gender-swapped sexy stalker thriller in the vein of "Fatal Attraction," "The Boy Next Door" is about as dead in the water as Michael Douglas' infamous pet bunny. However, as a tawdry slab of silly, giggle-inducing camp, "The Boy Next Door" scores more laughs than most intentional comedies. There's entertainment to be found here - cue the cookie-related innuendos - just never particularly of the variety the filmmakers were going for.
Published Jan. 24, 2015
It doesn't take long into George Lucas' bizarre new animated movie "Strange Magic" to ask "What the heck am I watching?" Not shortly after, that question turns into "Why the heck am I still watching this?" It's hard to rationalize a good answer for either.
Published Jan. 22, 2015
After the Sony hack forced "The Interview" out of its prime Christmas release slot, "Blackhat" seemed to be perfectly primed to take its place. Alas, Universal kept the film in January. And maybe that was for the best, because even with its timely sounding synopsis, "Blackhat" plays like a relic, recalling less the anxiety of today's headlines and more the warmed-over memories of yesterday's forgettable action junk and silly techno-trash.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
A day before the Common Council meets to vote on the Milwaukee streetcar plan, advocates and opponents made their final pushes to gain public support or enough signatures for a referendum.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
"Selma" is much more accomplished than "timely" gives it credit - or that its award season release and Important Movie surface may imply. It may appear like yet another Great Man Oscar bait biopic. Instead, it plays exactly like what many of those films are desperately reaching to be: a deeply powerful and deftly nuanced movie, one that beautifully captures the man and his mission with clear eyes, leaving viewers with teary ones thoroughly earned.
Published Jan. 19, 2015
After heading into the heart of the South in "The Beautiful Music All Around Us," the Milwaukee Rep now travels up to Southie in Boston, the home of the Ben Affleck, the Red Sox, pahking the cahr in Hahvahd Yahd and David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People." Taking over the award-winning role of Margie in the Rep's production is Milwaukee actress and director Laura Gordon, but it's not her first go around with the street smart Southie native.
Published Jan. 16, 2015
Every January, the Academy wakes the film-obsessed nation bright and early to present its picks for the best movies of the past year. And every year, it's a three-way tie for headlines between the expected, the exciting and the excrement.
Published Jan. 15, 2015
Bright and early this morning, the joint forces of Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, Alfonso Cuaron and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs prattled off the 2015 Oscar nominees. "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" lead the pack with nine nominations for each - including Best Picture nods for both.
Published Jan. 14, 2015
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's been called a lot of things over his prodigious career. Light and cartoonish, however, would not likely be two of them. Yet here we are with "Inherent Vice," which goes down satisfyingly like a late night pizza on 4/20.