The Cold Light of Day
Henry Cavill needs to seriously up his game. Next year he’s debuting as Zack Snyder’s Superman, probably the world’s premier action hero, and yet every film he’s making in the interim is turning out to be reliably shit. We got quite excited about Immortals only to be bitterly disappointed – and now, hard on its glowy Greek heels, comes unspeakably insipid action nonsense The Cold Light of Day. That title has absolutely fuck all to do with the film, by the way; to start with, it more or less makes sense.
Will Shaw (Cavill) is some sort of businessman who’s reluctantly in Spain for a long-overdue family holiday. It’s fair enough – his dad’s a famously grumpy cultural attaché who just happens to be stacked and scary-looking (Willis), and Will’s company’s on the verge of collapse so he isn’t really in the holiday mood. Don’t worry, though, because that will never be mentioned again. Anyway, the holiday’s already got off to a shit start. After a row on their stupid boat, Will dives off in a huff to swim to the shops (no, really) and then paddles back to find that the boat’s been ransacked and his family is missing. And then the police beat him up whilst saying ‘tranquilo’ all the time. And then Bruce Willis turns up and kills them all. Standard.
It turns out that Brucie isn’t actually a cultural attaché at all (is anyone?) – he’s with “a branch of the Agency”, and the kidnap is basically his fault. Unfortunately, he then gets SHOT TO DEATH AND MURDERED OH MY FUCK, so no more exposition’s forthcoming from that quarter. Will goes off to find some bloke his dad kept calling, nearly gets killed again and escapes along with his dad’s contact’s niece/secretary (are you following this?). He then tracks down Backstory Merchant #2, his father’s old pal Jean (Weaver) – she witters on for a bit about this stolen briefcase that unashamedly drives the ENTIRE plot, and then delivers the immortal and Team America-worthy line “Will, I’m afraid your family is being held by some terrorists.” She’s clearly the baddie. Will Will survive? Will Spanish Girl ever manage to spell ‘Will’ with fewer than twelve assorted vowels? Will Sigourney Weaver ever stop fucking shooting civilians for no reason at all? The answers, should you be interested, are ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘only when she inexplicably gets taken out by Mossad’.
Did you miss the carefully concealed spoiler in that last paragraph? Yeah. BRUCE WILLIS DIES! And not even at the end in some sort of noble making-up-with-my-son way, he dies well inside the first half hour for no real reason at all. Has Mabrouk El Mechri, who seemed to be quite a useful director on the basis of the critically acclaimed JCVD, never seen Die Hard?! And in any event, the people who inexplicably part with some of their hard-earned wages from Lidl to see films like this haven’t been drawn in by Henry Cavill’s moody face on the poster, they’re going to see John McClane fuck up some vaguely foreign people. Willis might, at a push, have 200 words in the whole film – it’s like he’s Henry Cavill’s carer, making sure his pine-scented protégé is safe to be released into the wild streets of Madrid before he lies down for another comforting facelift.
Right – now that’s out of my system, a word on the rest of the film. Inane. Cavill struggles half-heartedly against the mewling, pathetic demands of a ghastly script, a disengaged director and his own staggering lack of talent, managing the odd bit of posturing with a gun but nothing more. Ditto Screaming Spanish Girl, who might have been alright if she’d had anything to do except drive a motor scooter and look bewildered. Sigourney Weaver basically played Alfred Molina’s bad-cop role from Abduction, shooting people whenever she couldn’t be bothered to remember one of her lines and occasionally saying things like “Whoa!” in an empty car. There were some other people, but nobody cares. Also – and I really can’t believe I’m having to repeat this – it is NOT OKAY to have a briefcase-shaped MacGuffin that you don’t even hint at the contents of. Pulp Fiction has happened, Ronin has happened, thriller directors of every stripe have wrung the last drops of blood from the suitcase-MacGuffin’s hinges and it is BANNED from Hollywood henceforth.
I usually like to find some way of suggesting how the film I’ve just finished slagging off could be improved, because it’s nice to feel superior. But honestly, there isn’t even anything to build on here. Derivative, uninspired, badly written, atrociously directed, indifferently cast and DEAD BRUCE WILLIS WHAT ARE YOU DOING, The Cold Light of Day is as bad an action film as you’ll see this year.