The doldrums of September are finally upon us. It’s that time of year when Hollywood gives full expression to its disdain for movie goers by dumping its crappiest tax write-offs into empty theaters. Enter The Cold Light of Day, a movie so bland and forgettable that, despite having seen it less than twelve hours ago, I actually had to look it up on IMDB.com just to recall the title. I suspect this movie only received a theatrical release because studios wanted to capitalize on the public’s sudden interest in Henry Cavill, the latest actor to win the role of Superman. The wide theatrical release of The Cold Light of Day, however, doesn’t do it’s star any favors.
Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver star alongside Cavill in this story of a young man who finds his family abducted by terrorists during a vacation to Madrid. Why is his family kidnapped? Because his dad, Bruce Willis, is a spy, of course. Why do terrorists want to get to Bruce Willis? Because he has a suitcase. What’s in the suitcase? “Fuck you,” is the response we get from the screenwriters. In fact, the whole movie feels like a giant middle finger to anyone dumb enough to buy a ticket.
Never before have I seen a movie where the characters themselves seemed so bored to be in their own movie. Aside from Cavill, who spends the entire production running around with an expression on his face that screams “I just shit my pants,” everyone acts as if they have just snorted horse tranquilizers. The entire supporting cast provides dead-eyed, monotone line readings throughout the film’s torturous 93 minutes. Bruce Willis, in particular, is so catatonic that when his character is unceremoniously killed off twenty minutes into the movie, I wasn’t sure if he was playing dead or if he fell asleep on set and the director decided to just go with it.
But the lethargy doesn’t begin and end with the cast; everything about The Cold Light of Day feels sluggish. In one chase sequence, Sigourney Weaver plows a Range Rover into a motorcycle carrying Cavill. The bike skids off the street, but before Weaver can put a bullet in his head, he gets back on the bike and speeds away at a whopping 15 miles per hour. Weaver just stands there as if she’s too sedated to even be bothered to continue chasing him.
In another sequence, Cavill, after being framed for murder, finds himself being chased through a park by one police officer on horseback and another two or three officers on foot. He bolts down a gravel pathway and into a tunnel. Everyone in the scene can clearly see Cavill running for the tunnel. The officer on horseback is thrown from his mount before he can enter the tunnel, and the scene immediately cuts to Cavill washing his hands and face in a public bathroom. What the hell happened to the other half dozen police officers who were chasing after him? Did they just turn around go home after their buddy faceplanted on a sidewalk? It’s as if the fucking director himself was too bored to complete the scene.
But even if the action sequences here were longer and considerably more logical, that wouldn’t be enough to save this disaster. Ironically, for a spy thriller titled The Cold Light of Day, most of the movie takes place at night. Virtually all of the movie’s (PG-13) action takes place in predawn parks, dimly lit nightclubs, and shadowy parking garages. Very little of the proceedings is coherent or watchable; director Mabrouke El Mechri has no concept of spatial geography or lighting. The movie’s action sequences consist primarily of the dim outlines of figures smacking in to each other.
Every aspect of The Cold Light of Day from the writing to the performances to the direction to the unimaginative title reeks of laziness. It’s as if everyone involved merely wanted to collect a paycheck with the expectation that this project would be sent to straight-to-DVD hell. Then Henry Cavill had to ruin it by becoming Superman. Fortunately for the reputations of everyone involved, I doubt anyone will remember this movie a week from now.