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Shot in 2010 and delayed until 2012, with a trailer finally surfacing earlier this year (and very little fanfare since), Mabrouk El Mechri’s action thriller “The Cold Light of Day” is finally getting a limited theatrical release this Friday. You can see why it took so long for the film to, ahem, see the light of day despite an A-list cast that includes Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, and Sigourney Weaver. Fact is, while it’s not a terrible movie, it’s just not a very good one, either. There’s a lot of action, gunplay, a hell of a lot of chases, and exotic Spanish locales. Still, you can never fully shake the feeling that “The Cold Light of Day” is a direct-to-DVD B-action movie masquerading as a slick Hollywood production.
Things kick off with Cavill, playing young entrepreneur Will Shaw, arriving in Spain for a week of relaxation with the family. Bruce Willis plays the patriarch of the Shaw brood, Martin, who has something of a prickly relationship with his eldest son. The week does not go well, with Will’s business back home floundering, and the tyke finding no comfort from his estranged pops. But all that family drama takes a back seat when Will leaves the family for an errand, returning to find their boat abandoned and strangers with guns telling him to come with them. Will does the smart thing when strangers start bossing you around and flees, but things only get more complicated when Martin shows up and saves his flabbergasted son from the culprits. Martin informs Will that he’s not actually a business consultant for the American Embassy, but rather a super secret CIA badass, and his latest assignment has come back to bite him in the butt.
But this is not a Bruce Willis movie, this is a Henry Cavill movie — which is a shame, as Willis is actually very good here, even in the small role. The villain is one Jean Carrack (Sigourney Weaver), Martin’s CIA partner, who it seems is up to no good. Carrack is in possession of a certain briefcase that bad guys holding the rest of Will’s family hostage want. (What’s in the briefcase? Who cares. In screenwriting parlance, the briefcase is the MacGuffin, that one thing everyone wants.) Soon, Will finds himself on the run from the police (they think he killed one of them), the smooth but obviously bent Carrack, and various shady looking men of mysterious origins. Fortunately, Will catches a break when he stumbles cross cute Spanish local Lucia (Veronica Echegui), who as it turns out, has her own secret relationship with Martin. But first — another action-packed chase!
Yeah. There’s a lot of chasing in “The Cold Light of Day”. In fact, if you were to take out all the film’s chase scenes, you’d probably be left with, oh I don’t know, about 30 minutes of movie, give or take. There really is that many obscene number of chases here. Which probably explains why Will always looks like he’s on the verge of passing out. You can’t really blame the guy, he’s running everywhere and constantly being chased by people with guns. Seriously, the totally cavalier manner with which the bad guys in “The Cold Light of Day” go around shooting people is absurd. It’s a good thing Will has Martin’s gun, though I don’t know why he keeps chambering a round into it, when once was enough. I guess it looks cool, though Will has shit for aim and zero fighting ability, and as a result spends most of the film getting the crap kicked out of him. In one absurd sequence, Will spends what must be 5 minutes chasing the bad guys (like I said, a lot of chases in his movie), only to find himself being chased.
If you’re planning on watching “The Cold Light of Day” for Bruce Willis, I wouldn’t bother. He has a very small role, a glorified cameo, if you will, leaving Henry Cavill to shoulder the rest of the film. Weaver is interesting in that her character always looks to be in total control, calmly strolling around the film like she owns the joint. The movie, from a script by Scott Wiper and John Petro, does a terrible job of explaining just what exactly she does for the CIA that she can willy nilly walk around Spain shooting anyone she damn well pleases. Mabrouk El Mechri, who directed the Jean-Claude Van Damme mockudrama “JCVD”, seems less interested in telling a good story than he is in tossing poor Will into yet another chase scene. In terms of action, there’s a lot of it in “The Cold Light of Day”, though none that I would call outstanding or even interesting. People shoot lots of bullets using silenced guns, so there’s a whole lot of pffft pffft going on throughout the movie. (By the way, just so you non-gun owners know, silencers don’t actually “silence” a gun. It’s just another silly Hollywood contrivance.)
While watching “The Cold Light of Day”, I couldn’t help but think that a much younger actor playing a much younger Will would have made for a more convincing film. Henry Cavill may be age-appropriate to play Bruce Willis’ son, but the guy is just way too beefcake to be playing such an ill-equipped yuppie constantly getting his ass handed to him. After a while, that sorta loses its charm, ya know? Give Summit Entertainment credit, though — they knew they had a stinker on their hands, and never tried to convince you otherwise. Despite Cavill and Willis in the cast, “The Cold Light of Day” is essentially being sneaked into U.S. theaters this weekend. Trust me when I say, you can do better this week.
Mabrouk El Mechri (director) / Scott Wiper, John Petro (screenplay)
CAST: Henry Cavill … Will Shaw
Verónica Echegui … Lucia
Bruce Willis … Martin Shaw
Sigourney Weaver … Jean Carrack
Joseph Mawle … Gorman
Caroline Goodall … Laurie Shaw
Rafi Gavron … Josh Shaw
Emma Hamilton … Dara