By David Tao, Senior Arts Editor
Published September 9, 2012
The only thing better than a vacation is a paid vacation to Europe. The cast and crew of “The Cold Light of Day” used their film as such — an excuse to go to Madrid for 10 weeks on a studio’s dime. For leading man Henry Cavill, who was more Clark Kent than Superman when “Day” started production, it was a holiday that might have turned him into a real action star. For co-stars Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver, it was a low-budget B-movie starring an unknown actor that might never get a theatrical release in America — permission to phone in their performances and sip sangria between takes. But now that Cavill is Zack Snyder’s choice to play Superman, the studio senses a cash cow and everybody’s shoddy work is exposed to, well, the cold light of day.
The Cold Light of Day
At Quality 16 and Rave
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Cavill (TV’s “The Tudors”) plays Will Shaw, a failed businessman off to Spain to see his semi-estranged family. His relationship with his father (Willis, “Die Hard”) is particularly fraught, and drives Will away from the family for a while to visit a local drugstore. He comes back to find his family gone. More importantly, he finds guys with guns trying to kidnap him. As his father steps out from the shadows and snaps their necks one by one, Will realizes that daddy isn’t just an asshole — he’s an asshole employed by the CIA.
From there, the film degenerates from an orderly, trope-filled story outline into something tangled and incomprehensible, resembling a spider’s web after the spider gets its daily dose of crack cocaine. Apparently, Will’s dad stole a MacGuffin in the form of a briefcase on a recent mission. Weaver’s character really wants it, but so does another mysterious bad guy, and one of them — or both, who knows? — is out to kill Will, his entire family and the other family he has but doesn’t know about.
But who cares? There’s hardly enough time to process any of it. Suddenly, Will has become a master pickpocket, found himself a pistol and located a long-lost half-sister. Miraculously, he’s transformed himself from Wall Street washout to Mr. Badass, the guy who shoots the gun, runs across the rooftops and drives the cop car down a flight of stairs away from the pursuing police. Picture a “Bourne” movie with only a token attempt at a backstory, featuring a lead less charismatic than either version of Bourne, and you’ve seen most of “Day” through mental imagery.
It’s so loud and frenetic, in a cloyingly post-Michael Bay sense, that audiences almost forget the plot holes. But yes, there are plot holes too — the sloppy kind where the script introduces a stranger into the mix and everybody somehow knows his name. There are also some truly abhorrent scenes where director Mabrouk El Mechri (“JCVD”) decides to shoot in the daylight and darken the frame to simulate nighttime, presumably because cast and crew took a vote and decided the Spanish club scene would be a more productive and entertaining use of time.
You can’t really blame them for that though. Compared to the dreck Mechri and company turned in, most everything would be a better use of your time.