The boring identity
International intrigue has hardly ever been less so
There’s always been something to complain about with Hollywood, but over the last decade it’s become increasingly obvious to even the most casual movie-goer that the time has come to throw a big “MC” in front of the HOLLYWOOD sign. Their product sucks because they don’t care anymore. As consumers we’re left to choose from $250 million feature-length commercials for toys or Adam Sandler movies that look like they were made for a less than a million bucks even though $75 million has been anted up in the shell game.
And in between the two we get disposable product like The Cold Light of Day, a wannabe Hitchcock thriller (a falsely accused man is led deeper into the morass by a MacGuffin) that is shot like a car commercial. Admittedly, it looks great, featuring sweeping camera shots and a propulsive soundtrack that maintains the illusion of movement even when nothing is happening. But the script is strictly a box of cinematic McNuggets, with a side of weak sauce.
The story: A sullen businessman on the verge of bankruptcy (Henry Cavill, our next Superman) is dragged aboard a yacht for a family holiday off the coast of Spain. His mom and bro are happy to see him, but the old man (Bruce Willis) has some obvious (very obvious) issues with him. The feeling is mutual. Fortunately, the distraction of the son’s money problems becomes moot when the rest of the family disappears from the boat while he’s ashore.
It seems as though dad is actually a deep-cover operative who has made a shadowy group very unhappy about a briefcase that he’s made off with. Yeah, the MacGuffin here is a trope, and they even wink about it. (Google “MacGuffin” if you care. The filmmakers obviously don’t.)
Soon enough, pops cashes in his paycheck for a day’s work and leaves his son to unleash his hidden badass and scramble around for the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to get the briefcase back from rogue agent Sigourney Weaver so that he can trade it off to those holding what’s left of his family hostage. If that’s a run-on sentence, then The Cold Light of Day is a run-on movie.
Disposable entertainment like this can be fun, but despite a constantly sweating Cavill running around Madrid, the pacing of this beast is turgid and the narrative turns are provincial—strictly cable-grade Bourne-again technique over substance. It tries to maintain a subtext about the importance of family, but it’s so ham-fisted in delivery that it becomes an action homily.
And as with most sub-par action thrillers these days, the focus on the mayhem is so tight and the editing so staccato that keeping up with just what the hell is going on in the moment is virtually impossible. And aside from a late-in-the-game burst of energy from Weaver as she shifts into “You just fucked with the wrong bitch” mode, The Cold Light of Day is just plain boring. Which is pretty impressive considering that half of the running time is spent having Cavill duck bullets. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m done thinking about this movie.