Cold Light of Day, The

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 09/17/12 08:30:02

"I Spy Something Unremarkable"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

If you ever feel a bit bored while watching 'The Cold Light of Day,' just look up at the screen and know that you are not alone.

No strangers to the routine paycheck gig, neither Sigourney Weaver nor Bruce Willis can muster up even the minimal conviction with which to go through the spy thriller paces here. Willis plays covert agent Martin, who must reveal his true identity to his work-minded son, Will (Henry Cavill, last year's Immortals), after the rest of their family is taken hostage during a vacation in Spain. Weaver’s Carrack wants some valuable briefcase that Martin has stolen, and she’s not the only one on his tail. Cue car chases, shootouts, unsurprising double-crosses, and miscellaneous derring-do.

I’d say that it’s fair to disclose upfront that going to see this for the sake of Willis’ participation is a fool’s errand, a fact that the trailer handily tips. In his limited screen time, though, he rivals Weaver for sheer disinterest, and whether behind the wheel or with gun in hand, she continually carries on with what is meant to pass for dead-eyed determination, but instead reeks of utter apathy. A little worse for wear is our actual protagonist (and Superman-to-be), Cavill, left to shout and sweat and flail around Madrid. He behaves less like a meek businessman forced to rise to the occasion and more like an idiot who can’t speak a lick of Spanish, yet can somehow recover a gun he tossed away in a random trash can hours after the fact. (The less said about his appropriately-aged love interest with family ties played by Verónica Echegui, the better.)

Day dutifully breezes through its countless cliches at a brisk clip, but while it’s hardly lacking in action, the action scenes are almost always lacking in spatial coherence and a visceral sense of excitement. Pursuits along the roadways of a seemingly unoccupied Madrid mostly consist of a pursuing car screeching around any random corner on the heels of another. Gunplay between would-be professionals hardly ever leaves a mark, and Lucas Vidal’s score in particular emphasizes the sub-Bourne level of it all.

The director behind the far more reflexive and interesting JCVD, Mabrouk El Mechri captures the fundamental components of a Hollywood action vehicle and throws them together with a dispassion to rival that of his cast. There’s little flair to be found beyond a handful of nonsensical through-the-looking-glass shots livening up busy but suspenseless showdowns. The script by Scott Wiper (The Condemned) and John Petro has no room for convincing ambiguity amid line after line of no-duh dialogue; this is Hitchcock’s wrong-man scenario stripped down and dumbed down, complete with requisite McGuffin, and about as devoid of humor and originality as these things come.

Well, that’s not entirely true. At the end of a climactic chase, a crashed car waits a beat to lurch down a set of subway steps as a confrontation unfolds. It’s an odd, amusing touch, and maybe if 'The Cold Light of Day' had been filled with more of those, it wouldn’t seem as bored with itself as any viewer would be.

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