Review: “The Cold Light of Day”
September 21st 2012 · 0 Comments
Considering the overwhelming banality of actor Henry Cavill’s body of work––comprising more than a decade of forgettable film and television roles––his continued presence as a leading man defies explanation. At best passable amongst a strong ensemble cast (as in Showtime’s 16th century drama series, “The Tudors”), Cavill’s utter lack of gravitas or basic acting chops has sunk more than one already-shaky production (like Tarsem Singh’s disappointingly inert mythological epic, “Immortals,” or Joel Schumacher’s low-budget occult horror flick, “Blood Creek”), when he alone was positioned to salvage some semblance of entertainment. Cavill stars in next year’s Superman franchise re-reboot, “Man of Steel,” and he may need to wow critics if he hopes to find further work. His latest vehicle, “The Cold Light of Day,” is a stunningly inept action-thriller that manages to fail by every possible metric.
Cavill is Will Shaw, a young businessman who has just arrived in Spain for a week’s vacation on the family sailboat with his father, Martin (Bruce Willis). Upon returning from a quick swim to the mainland, Will discovers that his parents and brother are missing. He contacts the authorities and is led into a trap, only to be rescued by his father, who reveals that he has secretly been an operative for the CIA since before Will was born.
Father and son go to meet Martin’s CIA handler, Jean Carrack (Sigourney Weaver), where Will watches his father die via a sniper’s bullet. Will suddenly becomes adept with firearms and hand-to-hand combat, and manages to evade highly-trained international espionage specialists while working to uncover a conspiracy revolving around a secret briefcase. Will learns that his father is really Tom, not Martin (as if it matters), and that he had a secret Spanish family all along. With the aid of a motley crew including his half-sister, a greasy nightclub promoter, and an Israeli assassin, Will outsmarts Carrack, rescues his family, and earns himself an unsolicited job offer from the CIA.
Many of the film’s issues are rooted in its brainless script, penned by a trio of undistinguished writers. In action, it scans as baby’s first screenplay. We are subjected to scads of awkward, unnatural expository dialogue, overburdened with misused espionage jargon. Much of what is said by the story’s paper-thin characters would be deemed too low-brow to appear on a Bazooka Joe bubblegum wrapper. So the actors have little work with, but they do themselves no favors.
Bruce Willis is dry and professional in his three short scenes, but he is only too happy to collect a paycheck and kick the bucket ten minutes in. Sigourney Weaver is so disinterested as the toothless villain that she disappears into the scenery even when the script demands cartoonish cackling and gloating. Cavill, however, is the worst offender. He substitutes baring his teeth for emoting, and never seems to have a grasp of his character’s simplistic motivation. He plays with a cell phone and occasionally screams unintelligibly for the full 96-minute runtime.
As if these issues weren’t enough, director Mabrouk El Mechri manages to bungle everything else as well. Leaden, languorous pans are intercut with stretches of ultra-choppy handheld camerawork, making the whole of the proceedings seem uneven and hastily edited. The few chases and scenes of gunplay are so poorly shot that almost none of the critical action is actually conveyed visually. Numerous heavily-filtered day-for-night scenes will make even budgetless amateur filmmakers cringe. Even the sound design is appalling, pairing a tinny, inappropriately-frenetic score with snippets of gracelessly-dubbed dialogue. Further, one begins to wonder if the minds behind this film even inhabit consensus reality, as baldly ludicrous events transpire right and left. The most glaring, certainly, is when Will survives a four-story fall without injury; not even a five-year-old would buy it. And worst of all, the film manages to be incredibly dull, despite constantly clamoring for attention. In fact, “The Cold Light of Day” may not be a film at all. It might simply be weaponized narcolepsy.
It’s impossible to recommend this abominable film to anyone. To get the effect of watching “The Cold Light of Day” without having to suffer through it, try viewing “Memento” backward, through sunglasses, dubbed in a language you don’t speak.