Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Since the first trailer hit, The Cold Light of Day has looked like the kind of thriller one wants to sit back with and have some easy fun for 90 minutes or so, without being challenged. Unfortunately, Mabrouk El Mechri’s follow-up to the acclaimed JCVD is much too predictable and generic for it to work as a successful piece of popcorn entertainment and even the lean running time feels overextended for this story.
What little there is follows Will Shaw (Henry Cavill, delivering an impeccable American accent), a young business consultant who takes a vacation somewhere along the coast of Spain on his family’s boat. He meets his father, Martin Shaw (Bruce Willis), at the airport and they go to meet the rest of the family on the boat. After an overlong introduction of laughably bad dialogue, which was presumably intended to make one associate with the characters, the action finally starts to heat up.
Will’s family goes missing, as his father turns out to be a secret CIA agent, and suddenly many different groups of people are after Will, including a former partner of Martin’s (Sigourney Weaver), who is one of the most poorly written characters to hit the screen in some time. It’s a plot we’ve all seen a million times before, and the writers (Scott Wiper and John Petro) don’t even attempt to do anything remotely creative with it. Every step of the way, one can see what is going to happen next. It is difficult to suspend your disbelief when Will consistently gets away from impossible situations with basically no attempt to make it appear the slightest bit plausible.
And while the narrative built around the action isn’t impossible to follow, the action itself is. The camera cuts every few seconds during fight scenes, making it difficult know who is who or what is going on. And not only does the editing hinder the experience, the cinematography from Remi Adefarasin is also very amateurish. One scene, in which Will runs away from police in a park, was clearly shot in bright sunlight despite the shoddy attempts to try and make it look like nighttime.
Far too many side characters are introduced as well, making the already uninteresting plot increasingly incoherent. It’s as if the writers thought cramming as much characters in as possible would make the film more complex. All these characters, including our main players, are given incredibly stilted and the script doesn’t add in many surprises, making for a predictable film with no tangible tension.
The acting is also wooden, but it is difficult to blame these proven stars, as they are given no opportunity to shine. Cavill does show all the signs of becoming a Hollywood star in this pre-cursor to his Superman role in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Despite all of its many faults, The Cold Light of Day comes off as more of a supremely lazy effort than a complete disaster. With every beat of this film feeling recycled, it is best reserved for a rental down the road if you must. As for Willis and Weaver, two actors who have been involved in some of the best action films Hollywood’s had to offer, they should be pretty embarrassed watching this final product.
The Cold Light of Day is currently in release in the UK, and hits US theaters on September 7th.
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