The tepid thriller The Cold Light of Day is the sort of movie that makes you appreciate the genius of Alfred Hitchcock. Its plot of an ordinary man thrown into a case of international espionage is the sort of story that the master director practically invented and over the course of his career honed to perfection. In the hands of filmmaker Mabrouk El Mechri, what could have potentially been a taut thriller comes off as an aimless and downright dull exercise in mediocrity.
Young American businessman Will (Henry Cavill) is the man in the middle as he travels to Madrid for an annual family vacation. He has an icy relationship with his father, Martin (Bruce Willis), but is close to his mother (Caroline Goodall) and brother (Rafi Gavron), who’s brought his girlfriend (Emma Hamilton) along to enjoy the familial tension. Things take a definite turn for the worse when Will heads to town one day only to return to the family’s boat to find that they’ve all been kidnapped. Unbeknownst to him, good old dad is actually a CIA operative and some very bad men want a briefcase he’s recently obtained, so much so that they have no problem killing their hostages if its not delivered to them in 24 hours. When Martin ends up being killed during an ill-advised meeting with his partner Carrack (Sigourney Weaver), Will desperately tries to find the case and family before time runs out.
As inventive as El Mechri’s JCVD was, a movie that poked holes in every action film convention while deconstructing Jean-Claude Van Damme’s persona, this production is predictable. Little imagination is employed in the many action sequences that clutter the story while the filmmaker fails completely in generating any sense of urgency. It’s as if El Mechri’s intent was to simply execute a checklist of shots as efficiently and quickly as possible, knocking them off and moving on to the next without giving a thought to creating a consistent tone or sense of pacing. There’s no sense of enthusiasm here. It seems as though all involved had an obligation to meet and it was a drudgery to execute.
The movie contains more than its fair share of missed opportunities. It does nothing with Will’s feelings of betrayal where his father is concerned. Not only does he find out that dad was a government spook but that he also had another family, a secret revealed to him when he meets Lucia (Veronica Echegui), the sister he never knew he had. A quizzical look is all we get out of Will when this bombshell is dropped on him. El Mechri can’t be bothered to explore the emotional fallout of the plot’s twists and turns – he’s much more concerned with fashioning another nonsensical, seizure-inducing action sequence of the sort that muddles Light to the point of being incomprehensible and tedious.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.