I hope the last two films I saw aren’t the beginning of a new genre in Hollywood, but if indeed they are, we can call the category MAT for mediocre action thrillers. Two weeks ago I watched “The Bourne Legacy,” which bore the name of the franchise hero who never appeared in the film, and this weekend, despite the presence of three-time Academy Award nominee Sigourney Weaver and action-film legend Bruce Willis, “The Cold Light of Day” earned a solid spot in the MAT genre.
Actually the film looks promising early on as it begins with Will Shaw (Henry Cavill) arriving in Spain for a week’s vacation with his family. Will, who owns a business in San Francisco, is met at the airport by his father, Martin (Willis), and it’s obvious immediately that tension exists between the two of them.
When Will arrives at the family’s sailing vessel, his mother, Laurie (Caroline Goodall), is delighted to see him as is his brother, Josh (Rafi Gavron), who is on the boat with his girlfriend, Dara Collins (Emma Hamilton). Just after Josh has introduced Dara to Will, Martin walks by without saying a word, and Josh asks Will, “How was the ride with Godzilla?”
“No blood no foul, yet,” Will replies.
“Just take it easy,” Josh says. “It’s only for a week.”
This little exchange underscores the tension that was evident when Martin met Will at the airport, and as the film progresses, we learn that this father-son relationship is less than idyllic. Martin apparently works for the government in some capacity, but he is very vague about his responsibilities.
From the time he arrives on the boat, Will is glued to his cell phone, and he is either talking or texting constantly because his business is not going well, and the next day his obsession with his phone results in an unfortunate accident. While he is supposed to be steering the boat, he takes time out to use the phone, and as a result the ship lurches, and Dara sustains an injury.
Will decides to leave the ship and to get some first aid supplies, but when he returns to the water, he discovers that the ship is gone. After searching along the shore, finally finds the boat, but there’s no one on board, and he goes to the local police for help in finding his family.
From this point on, the plot becomes a bit convoluted, but the simplified version is that Will and Martin are reunited, and Martin confesses that he works for the CIA. It seems that some nasty people who want a briefcase Martin has taken from them have kidnapped his family. Now Will becomes involved in a dangerous game of cat and mouse that may very well cost him his life.
“The Cold Light of Day” is a very frustrating film to watch because after setting up the kidnapping plot, it fails to maintain any real suspense. Instead it becomes bogged down in a needlessly complex and often confusing storyline. And when the movie finally ends, we feel cheated because we never do find out what is in that all-important briefcase.
While all of the performances in this movie are adequate, none of them really stands out. Willis is so low key that at times he just seems to be going through the motions, and he doesn’t appear to have any interest in the character he’s playing. I really enjoyed Willis in the “Die Hard” films and “The Sixth Sense,” but his work in this film is completely uninspired.
The same can be said of Weaver as Jean Carrack, who is Martin’s partner in the CIA. Like Willis, she fails to make her character the least bit interesting, and this is disappointing because she is a terrific actress.
The major buzz about this movie is that it is supposed to be a showcase for Clavill, the star of “Immortals” who landed the coveted dual roles of Clark Kent and Superman in next summer’s “Man of Steel.” If you saw Clavill as Theseus in “Immortals,” you know that he sported a muscularly ripped body complete with the six-pack abs. In this film, however, he is just an ordinary guy who becomes involved in a very dangerous situation. In an online interview, Clavill discussed how different it was to prepare for both roles.
“The preparation for this role was different, indeed. I came off ‘Immortals’ where I had to be super fit, and sort of the killer of men. This one was quite the opposite because I was told that I wasn’t allowed to do a single push-up or sit-up, I had to eat and drink as much as possible and be as average and normal as I possibly could be – within the short space of preparation time given, because ‘The Cold Light of Day’ was literally filmed off the back of ‘Immortals.’ The idea of the preparation was to be less competent and walk with less balance. For example, in a high stress situation, Theseus was very much someone who would react perfectly. In ‘The Cold Light of Day,’ Will doesn’t act that way at all. He runs or he fires blindly and tries to survive. The preparation was different. It was difficult to do prep for that. You kind of have to just feel it in the moment and run with it. But the most difficult thing was I suppose getting out of shape; it was trying to be as out of shape as possible so that it’s more believable in the story.”
Taking into consideration Clavill’s analysis of what kind of a character Will is supposed to be, I guess he pretty well nails the part, and his performance was definitely the best one in the movie. In places he succeeds quite well in conveying Will’s combined fear and confusion about what is happening to him.
Overall, “The Cold Light of Day” (Give it a final score of six.) fits into the MAT genre beautifully because it doesn’t succeed very well in building or sustaining any significant aura of suspense or mystery. The action scenes are also nothing special, and the big chase scene is completely lackluster.
Actually the best thing the film has going for it is the scenery in Spain. Some of those shots are stunning, but they can’t elevate the film above the level of mediocrity. In fact, as an action thriller “The Cold Light of Day” probably will leave many action aficionados completely cold.