The Cold Light of Day (review)

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The Cold Light of Day red light Henry Cavill

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The Cold Light of Day! Brought to you by the Madrid Film Tax Credit Production Office and the Society for the Promotion of Henry Cavill as the Next Big Thing! What’s that? You’ve never heard of Henry Cavill? You will: he’s playing Superman in Zack Snyder’s reboot next year. And you can bet your sweet bippy that the Society was uber excited by the prospect of injecting some Cavill directly into your fanboy lobe early with a kickass action movie. And you can bet your sweet bippy that the Society was aghast to discover that the would-be kickass action movie — that would be this one — is as generic as corn flakes (the store brand, not even the Kellogg’s). I think it’s fair to imagine that this flick was dumped unceremoniously into European theaters this past spring, where it sank without a trace, and is now being ushered quietly into U.S. multiplexes on what is traditionally the slowest weekend of the year (the one right after Labor Day), because — ohmigod! — it could totally spoil next summer’s tentpole Man of Steel if everyone cops on too soon to the fact that Henry Cavill may be a bit of a dud.

Look: For a boy from the Channel Islands, Cavill (Immortals, Stardust) plays all-American just fine. And he’s — *sigh* — very pretty, and nice-to-look-at is no bad thing when it comes to Teh Movies. But that may be all Cavill is, if Cold Light is any indication. It’s pathetic, really, how Bruce Willis blows Cavill off the screen so effortlessly here, how Willis is more memorable with next to no screen time, how by the time the film is over, you’re lamenting its deplorable lack of Willis-ness. See, Cavill’s Will arrives in Spain to visit his parents — Willis (The Expendables 2, Red) and Caroline Goodall (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Chasing Liberty) — and almost instantly learns the hard way that Dad, aka Godzilla, is actually a CIA agent, and not the cultural attaché he said he was. And not even regular CIA but part of “a special branch of the Agency” that is, it seems, ultra badass and up to a whole lotta no good. That’s already enough to make you wish the movie was about Willis — or that anyone had found something interesting to explore in the idea that the CIA could be villainous — but then it gets worse: Will is stuck having to track down the macguffin briefcase that certain bad guys want, that CIA Dad stole, in order to get back his family, whom the certain bad guys have kidnapped. (The family also includes a brother and the brother’s girlfriend, who are such nonentities that it hardly matters. Mom is a nonspecific standard Cool Hollywood Mom, too, alas. It’s like this movie is making a special effort to be vague and average.)

The briefcase is so utterly macguffinnish that the script tries to turn it into a joke — like it’s akin to whatever was in the trunk in Repo Man or something — but that falls even flatter than everything that came before it. Which is: punches thrown! gunshots ricocheting! car chases careening! It’s all simultaneously breathless and pointless… except when Will, who is just a regular business guy, ends up doing some Bourne-esque crap that he shouldn’t even be capable of. Then it’s ridiculous. Unless — oh crap: there’s hints that maybe Will’s business may be rather nefarious, and there’s an attempt, at the very end, to set up some sort of movie franchise in which Will takes up his father’s Company mantle. Please, let this not happen. Ever.

The most fun I had here was singing to myself: He doesn’t speak the language. He holds no currency. You can call him Kal-El. It’s a Paul Simon joke. If you get it, then you’ll probably find Will as dull as I did. These kids today, with their Bruce Willis dads showing them up…

This is the sort of bland blahness that makes you figure that, just as pharmaceutical companies have long lists of potential drug names just waiting for the right pill to come along seeking a moniker, Hollywood has lists of movie titles awaiting a movie to slap them on. “The Cold Light of Day” means nothing here, but it kinda sounds like James Bond movie, don’t it? Hollywood hopes you will be fooled by this into imagining there’s something exciting to behold here. I am here to tell you: there isn’t.

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