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The Cold Light of Day

2012 | 93 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Cold Light of Day


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1 user review

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Theatrical release date

 07 September, 2012
 06 April, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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The Cold Light of Day Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 7, 2012

If there’s anything positive to glean from “The Cold Light of Day,” it would have to be its use as an educational tool, teaching young film students how not to make a mid-budget action movie. Perversely amateurish and astonishingly tedious considering its mouthbreathing screen elements, the feature stumbles from scene to scene, using violence and disorder to cover the fact that the script, credited to Scott Wiper and John Petro, is a complete load of rubbish, from dialogue to plotting. While the genre typically leans toward nonsense to provide cheap thrills, “Light of Day” launches into absurdity in the opening ten minutes and never recovers.

Taking a break from his hectic, possibly disastrous life in the business world, Will (Henry Cavill, “Immortals”) travels to Spain to vacation with his family, including his standoffish father, Martin (Bruce Willis). When a yachting accident requires Will to swim ashore to retrieve medicine, he returns to find the boat gone and his family missing. Revealing himself to be a C.I.A. agent working to protect the secretive contents of a briefcase, Martin is confronted by fellow agent Jean (Sigourney Weaver), who has her own eyes on the prize. With his family kidnapped and Jean’s goons out to kill him, Will slips into survival mode, bombing around Spain on the hunt for answers and protection, only to find little assistance in both departments. Armed and angry, Will teams up with Lucia (Veronica Echegui), a local also concerned with Martin’s well-being, to get to the bottom of the briefcase enigma.

The director is Mabrouk El Mechri, who made a splash a few years back with his Jean-Claude Van Damme comeback vehicle, “JCVD.” While that picture was a minor miracle highlighting some visible filmmaking finesse, “Light of Day” is completely leaden and generic, struggling to keep up a steady pace while the story drags across the ground. We’re talking secret agents, a prized briefcase, international interests, and the flavorful streets of Madrid, yet the helmer displays little imagination with these basic ingredients, sticking to a bland routine of shootouts and car chases, while a few genuinely odd departures, including Will’s interactions with the frenzied staff of a cavernous nightclub (who help the stranger with bullet removal using vodka and a metal spoon), are more puzzling than invigorating. El Mechri appears confused with the job ahead of him, spending more time working on his camera moves than perfecting the details of the frame, leaving stunts and gunplay painfully uninspired -- the kiss of death for a monobrowed genre effort.

Not all the blame for “Light of Day” should be laid on El Mechri’s lap. The screenplay is dismal, featuring clumsy efforts of exposition (the dialogue is brutal) and a lumpy narrative, while the central mystery is no mystery at all. Think of “Light of Day” as a “Spy Kids” riff, with Will taking on Martin’s position of pursuit, desperately trying to process the situation while sprinting across Madrid with a gun, unsure of who to trust. Instead of greeting gadgets and making discoveries, Will just flops into situations beyond his control, showing amazingly little action hero instinct despite Jean’s pronounced untrustworthiness and a few clear opportunities to put down his pursuers for good. Cavill’s sweaty, screamy performance is properly manic, but the script drags out the obvious for much too long, making the whole “Light of Day” experience implausible, even for this style of entertainment.

And without giving too much away, if you’re planning to buy a ticket based on Willis’s participation, you’d be better off rewatching “Die Hard.”

“The Cold Light of Day” is forgettable and wastes the time of a good actress like Weaver, who was likely coaxed into the production by the promise of a Spanish vacation. It’s clunky and offers minimal suspense, bravely carrying on as though it’s the most exciting feature you’ll see all year. I assure you, it isn’t. And if you don’t believe me, trust Bruce Willis, who visibly wages war with the Sandman during his time onscreen.

Starring: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Verónica Echegui, Roschdy Zem, Joseph Mawle
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri

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