Cold Comes the Night review: eh, lukewarm, anyway

Cold Comes the Night yellow light Bryan Cranston Alice Eve

A familiar-feeling crime thriller is enlivened by unexpectedly down-to-earth, hardbitten characters weighed down by the mundane weariness of life on the edge.
I’m “biast” (pro): like the cast

I’m “biast” (con): wasn’t completely taken with the trailer

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

There’s bloodied cash flying around as Cold Comes the Night opens, a tantalizing flashforward hint of what’s to come, so you know it won’t end well. (The title is a good one, perhaps, for a thriller, but it’s apparently a random one here. Wait! *Googles in case this is a literary illusion I’m unaware of.* Nope, it’s random.) But it doesn’t really start well, either, for single mom Chloe (Alice Eve: Star Trek Into Darkness). She’s the manager of a rundown motel in rural upstate New York, and social services is threatening to take away her grade-school daughter (cute Ursula Parker) because they’re living in the motel, which is a haven for drug users and hookers and their johns. Which Chloe knows full well: it seems she has a thing going with local cop Billy (Logan Marshall-Green: Prometheus) to allow the girls to use the rooms, maybe in exchange for some sort of kickbacks? (This is never clear. Not much can be coming to Chloe, though, because she can’t afford to move.) Chloe is so tough and so used to living life on the edge that she’s barely even surprised when Topo (Bryan Cranston: Argo), a Russian mobster whose sight is failing loses his ride after his night at the motel and kidnap-blackmails Chloe into helping him out with a money transfer to some Montreal bad guys. (I presume Topo is supposed to be a Russian mobster, anyway. It’s the only explanation for Cranston’s otherwise inexplicable put-on Russian accent. The movie would have been fine without it.) The most intriguing things American indie filmmaker Tze Chun (who wrote the script with Osgood Perkins and Nick Simon) finds in his fairly standard crime thriller story is how unglamorous and how efficient Chloe is — simply seeing a woman sans makeup and looking genuinely exhausted all the time, as a real Chloe would be, is something of a revelation — and how few options her world offers: the jaded viewer cannot even say to herself, “Why doesn’t she just call the cops?” when we already know what an utterly corrupt bastard Billy is. (He gets worse, though his awfulness is of a mundane, small-minded, unambitious sort, which is far more common and far more plausible than what movies usually give us.) If Night doesn’t entirely avoid clichés in its plot, it does at least avoid them in its characters.

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