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 – it often doesn't seem to know what Will is supposed to be doing next – 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 Sept. 26, 2016
The Milwaukee Film Festival is here, and as a proud sponsor, OnMilwaukee is honored to bring you Spotlight Presentations and a new sports series, Sportsball!, this year. We'll also bring you our picks every day. Here's what you shouldn't miss for Day 5.
Published Sept. 25, 2016
John Darnielle turned to a surprising place for The Mountain Goats' latest record: professional wrestling. Before the band's show Tuesday night, we chatted with the storytelling frontman about his wrestling inspiration and digging through nostalgia.
Published Sept. 23, 2016
The 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival opened Thursday evening much the way the last rendition closed: with a documentary tribute to finding meaning at the movies, this time via "Life, Animated," a sweet and lovely moving picture - in all meanings of the phrase.
Published Sept. 19, 2016
With almost 300 movies set to screen during the Milwaukee Film Festival, it can be almost impossible to figure out what to see. OnMilwaukee film critic Matt Mueller is here to help, breaking down each day with what you must see.
Published Sept. 16, 2016
Looking around Reed Street Yards, it's hard not to think it would be a perfect place for a nature-conscious music festival. Apparently Rock the Green thought the same thing, as the area will play host to its return on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Published Sept. 15, 2016
Oscar winner John Ridley, "Arrested Development" star Mae Whitman and "Silicon Valley" star Martin Starr are just a few of the many filmmakers, film subjects and performers heading to the Milwaukee Film Festival starting next Thursday.
Published Sept. 14, 2016
The Green Bay Packers will have to wear a Color Rush uniform during their Thursday night spat with the Chicago Bears on Oct. 20. Thankfully, the revealed jersey is nowhere near the brightly colored nightmare it could've been.
Published Sept. 14, 2016
Good news, Brewers fans. Your suffering through this difficult - though not completely catastrophic - rebuilding season is coming to a grateful close, and shining as a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel is next year's schedule, released today.
Published Sept. 14, 2016
There's no denying the impact of "Avatar" and its ability to tell a universal story in a revolutionary way years ago. Now, it's up to Cirque du Soleil to bring that immersive world and universal message from the screen to the stage with "Toruk - The First Flight."
Published Sept. 13, 2016
It's no wonder Hollywood would want to adapt the Miracle on the Hudson River into a movie. But while director Clint Eastwood works the landing to the best his late-career abilities, it's the rest of the movie around the crash that proves catastrophic for "Sully,"