'The Cold Light of Day' Review: Henry Cavill and a Cavalcade of Cliches

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The Cold Light of Day Review: Henry Cavill and a Cavalcade of Cliches

By Eric D. Snider | Film Reviews | September 7, 2012 | Comments ()


One reliable way to spot a mediocre film is when it stars big-name American actors but doesn't play in U.S. theaters until after it's been released everywhere else. That's certainly the case with The Cold Light of Day, an unnecessary but inoffensive espionage thriller that you have to assume was an inch away from going straight to DVD in the States before someone decided to dump it in 1,500 theaters with hardly any advertising, possibly as a Producers-style tax write-off.

Bruce Willis is in the cast for paycheck purposes (and boy, when his shift is over, he is out of there), and Sigourney Weaver plays an ice-blooded spy like the trouper she is, but the actual star is Henry Cavill, the English actor who Warner Bros. hopes will soon be best known as the new Superman. No one has seen The Man of Steel yet, but I feel safe in saying it's more realistic than The Cold Light of Day.

Cavill plays Will Shaw, a young businessman who has reluctantly torn himself away from work to take a vacation in Spain with his father (Bruce Willis), mother (Caroline Goodall), brother (Rafi Gavron), and his brother's girlfriend (Emma Hamilton). Will and his dad, a government bureaucrat who had to move the family around a lot during Will's childhood, butt heads on every subject. But you can bet they'll start working as a team when the rest of the family gets kidnapped!

Turns out Dad isn't so much a "government bureaucrat" as he is a "CIA agent." Enter Ms. Weaver as Jean Carrack, an old friend and colleague to whom he turns for help, helpfully summarizing for her (and us) what the issue is here: "The group we took the briefcase from? They want it back." Get the briefcase, save the family.

But it soon falls on Will alone to be the action hero, and he rises to the occasion in the manner of most mild-mannered civilians in movies, which is to say he's suddenly very good at firing a gun, escaping from rooftops, and engaging in car chases. In the course of determining who is trustworthy, he joins forces with Lucia (Veronica Echegui), a young Spanish woman whose uncle was a local contact of his dad's.

The screenplay, by Scott Wiper (who made the Steve Austin vehicle The Condemned) and John Petro, could plausibly have been written as part of a contest to produce the most bland, derivative, and generic action screenplay ever known. It isn't outrageously stupid or laughable; it just delivers a stock set of situations in the usual order, like a third-season episode of The A-Team. It does benefit a little from the efforts of director Mabrouk El Mechri (JCVD), a savvy technician who gives the unremarkable story more visual flair than it deserves (except in the fight scenes, which are jittery).

Henry Cavill doesn't make much of an impression as an action star, though it's hard to say how much of that is his fault. His character is poorly drawn and often jerky, getting angry at the Spaniards for not speaking English and just generally being a pill. Granted, he has a lot on his mind, what with his family being abducted and people trying to kill him. But the everyday civilians in movies who become expert marksmen and skilled getaway drivers usually become charming, too. Why keep all the other cliches and omit that one?

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Snarkastic Wench

    More Eric D., please!

  • zeke_the_pig

    Wow - that was a lot of words. I read them all, and I got nothing out of it at all. So in fact in some ways the perfect review - totally conveying the feel of watching the film.

  • Cavill is the new Superman and plays a character named Will Shaw in this spy movie. Brandon Routh was the last Superman and played a character named Daniel Shaw in the spy show "Chuck".
    A new more pleasant version of the Superman curse maybe?

  • NoPantsMcLane

    Mabrouk El Mechri directed this? The guy who made me believe The Muscles from Brussels should have gotten an Academy Award nomination for best actor? He must really not have given a shit about this film at all. Hopefully this gave him enough money to do another cool project like JCVD.

  • Seth

    This review is so much better than any of Roger Ebert's. Well done douchejiba, well done. I especially like how you don't know any "film making stuff" like "cinomotragrafffy" or whatever that stuff does, cuz thass fur old douches we decide we don't like that paved the way fer what we doos.

    O god. I juss realissed I was dickishnesst.

  • Quatermain

    Dude, you're kind of taking this whole Roger Ebert thing kinda personally. What did he, donate you a kidney or something?

  • "this whole roger ebert thing"? did i miss something?

  • ,

    "JCVD" is a good movie.

    That is all.

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