Action Movie Friday: The Cold Light of Day

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: The Cold Light of Day
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2012
Genre: Action, spy, thriller
Starring: Henry Cavill, Sigourney Weaver, Bruce Willis, Veronica Echegui, Joseph Mawle
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Writer: Scott Wiper, John Petro
Distributor: Lionsgate/Summit
Budget: $20 Million
Box Office: $17 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 5%

Gingersnaps Rating: One and a quarter cookie!


On vacation with his family in Spain, Will (Cavill) goes to town to get some supplies and comes back to find the boat missing. When he finds it, the boat is empty and his family is mysteriously gone. The police seem not about to help him until they receive a mysterious phone call. Once they arrive on the scene, they want to hand him over to a stranger. Will feels betrayed and tries to get away and is saved by his father Martin (Willis.) Martin has been keeping secrets from Will. He’s a member of the CIA and now somebody wants something he took, a briefcase, and are using the family as leverage to get it back. They have 24 hours to retrieve it or else their family will pay the price. Betrayed again, Will goes on the run into a Madrid morning with no idea of who to trust or how to get to the briefcase. All he knows, is that he’s got to get his family back.


Numbers wise, it was a good thing that this movie had a very low budget. Even then, it didn’t make the twenty million back at the box office. The statistics for movie revenue vary between reports of 12 million to 17 million dollars, with half of that being made overseas. It didn’t do well. It has since then made maybe 5 million in DVD/Blu Ray sales. Overall, this was a huge flop for Lionsgate/Summit/Intrepid. Fortunately, they didn’t spend anymore on it.

The Cold Light of Day according to rumor was supposed to be a way to get the name of Henry Cavill into the minds of the public before the new Superman. Putting his name among the likes of Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver may not have actually been the best idea, especially when it is a role where Cavill plays a rank amateur in the “spy game” and spends half the movie clueless and shaking. Which as for the reaction of a person who has never been in a firefight before, finds his family kidnapped and has no idea what is going on is pretty reasonable. It just doesn’t make for exciting movie watching.

The plot for this movie is slow, slow and slow. It takes half an hour before we even get to the major point of it and the ball gets rolling. I know. I was baking a cake that took half an hour. It wasn’t even that complicated of a concept. I’m of the firm opinion that if you can’t set up the concept of your movie in the first ten minutes, then you’ve got no business making the movie. This movie is only ninety-three minutes long, at thirty minutes, you’ve just sat through a third of the film and nothing has happened. Half an hour is also approximately the amount of time Bruce Willis is in this movie. And even after the half an hour mark, where we’ve got some clue of the premise of the plot, the movie continues to be slow and rather flat so that it feels longer than it is. This means also, that the characters that are introduced after the half an hour mark, who could be interesting, never get to be because they wasted that time already. I’m taking a bite out of the cookie. The last thing an action movie plot should be is slow.

The plot premise is pretty simple. Father isn’t who he claims to be, the family has been kidnapped and now they need to be saved, all revolving around the plot McGuffin of the briefcase. Who has the briefcase? What is in the briefcase? And who wants the briefcase? Where this movie fails is both the simultaneous logic and lack of logic involved. Logic, because Will does exactly what a tourist would and probably should do in that situation, which is go to the police and then the embassy. Lack of logic, because the embassy claims his father doesn’t work for them at all, which on one hand is true because the father doesn’t, and on the other, the father would have some sort of job at the embassy under his pseudonym because you just don’t go to a foreign country with job title of “spy.” It doesn’t work that way. So, logically, the character should be doing these things. But that also not what the action movie film going audience wants to see. It’s not interesting and takes away from the whole plot of the McGuffin.

Basically, in this movie we spend 90% of the time on a guy who doesn’t know anything and 10% of the time revolving around the McGuffin. (And once guy who doesn’t know anything does get the McGuffin, he predictably loses it to the ‘bad guy.’ Predictability, this isn’t helping the movie at all.) This is the opposite of what this movie needed. I’m taking another bite of the cookie.

(And for a movie whose tagline is “Be Careful Who You Trust” on the box, trust issues are never even addressed since Will doesn’t seem to trust anyone to the point of defying logic. And those he does seem to work with which might imply trust, we spend no time with the characters to know why he even bothers, if he is trusting them or just using them or God knows.)

And then we get to the climax, and our hero has finally started doing something. We’ve lost the McGuffin, there’s been a very long and non-intense car chase. (Saying ‘God Damn’ does not intensity make.) The bad guy is going to confront the hero, starts to monologue and well, I mean, that’s pretty much it. It’s over. Without our hero doing much of anything. This is the point of the movie where it’s like “actually, bringing Bruce Willis back in the last ten minutes, while cliché, would have been more entertaining than this.” This plot fails as an action movie plot from start to finish. This isn’t the type of thing that the average action movie watcher wants to see. They want the hero to be beaten to a pulp and then rise up and claim victory! They are rooting for the hero to take victory and they want to see the hero do it personally. So, I have to take another bite of the cookie.

Next, the movie is set in Spain, which is fine. You know, Spain is a very pretty country. However, half the movie is in Spanish without subtitles. In fact, when you put the subtitles on in the DVD it reads (Speaking in Spanish.) I don’t know about you, but I’m not bilingual. I took Spanish in high school, but I don’t remember very much of it. That is what happens when you don’t actually use the skill. So, while this not translating the Spanish might be a reference to the fact that Will doesn’t speak Spanish. (For a kid who grew up in 15 countries this seems a bit ridiculous and illogical to me.) For the movie goer, it’s frustrating because they paid for this movie and it feels like they are missing half of it. I’m taking the last bite of the cookie for this.

Good bye, plot cookie.

The thing that took me out of this movie the most is the fact that Will was constantly cocking his gun. I understand to a point why Hollywood does this, despite the fact that it is completely unnecessary. But every time Will did it, he not only gave away his presence, all I could think was “You just dropped one of your bullets on the floor.” Next thing is, I never saw Will getting any bullets. For all I know, he went through the entire movie with one clip of ammunition. Meaning, he might as well have been unarmed for three quarters of it, yet for some reason, he still had shots at the end of the movie. I mean, maybe someone was nice and reloaded the gun for him, but we never saw it so I can’t say it with certainty.

Overall this is a prime example of the sloppiness in the world building of this movie. They set it up as it being logical, with Will doing logical things like going to the police and going to the embassy. Then, he gets shot, loses a lot of blood, gets beat up, is in several car crashes and seriously, this guy should be dead in a logical world. Just from the blood loss alone, this guy should not be up and walking around. It’s mind boggling if you think about it too much.

Now, the spies, also didn’t seem to know their spy craft. They are constantly losing the hero or the hero keeps getting lucky. (This is even remarked upon.) And they don’t know how to lose a very obvious tail, when the hero starts to tail them. While they claim the hero is an amateur, by the end of the movie you wonder if the villains are actually the amateurs.

In an illogical over the top world, I’d forgive. In this world, I can’t. I’m going to eat half the cookie. The physics of the movie save the other half. Cars crash and crumple realistically. Bullets chew into things and gravity works right.

There weren’t any explosions in this movie. I’m eating the cookie. (We had enough car crashes, there could have been one explosion. Oh, you mean that cars don’t explode on impact except 2% of the time. Well, this movie needed that 2% of the time.)

There was one fight and it was handled by Bruce Willis. It was moderately entertaining against a bunch of goons in the dark. However, Henry Cavill and Sigourney Weaver never entered into a fight themselves. Because Bruce Willis did bust some heads, I am willing to only eat three-quarters of this cookie. Because otherwise, the fight potential of this movie was completely wasted for ducking and dodging bullets and boring car chases.

Now, if you’ve ever seen any of the behind the scenes stuff with Sigourney Weaver, you’d realize she’s a pretty high energy personality and this often translates into her movies as intensity. She has a pretty big role in this movie. The other female with a major roles is Veronica Echegui, who plays Lucia, the niece of the man that Martin calls for help. Now, let’s just say, without Sigourney Weaver’s character of Jean Carrack, there wouldn’t have been a movie. And without Lucia and her friends, Will would be dead several times over. (Female med student for the win!) It’s Lucia who comes up with the plan to lure out the villains. However, there was a lot more potential for these characters than what we were actually shown. Sigourney Weaver spent more time walking around looking calm but ‘intense,’ than doing anything. And after Lucia’s initial burst of anger which sparks a fire fight, she retreats to being the ‘help.’ In fact, anything that might have been interesting or action worthy was delegated to a man, whether it was Will or Jean’s male henchman.

So on one hand it’s, “Sigourney Weaver’s character is the catalyst for the whole plot (important) and the few scenes we see her in, she’s pretty awesome.” And then on the other hand, there is “You’ve got Sigourney Weaver in your action movie and she doesn’t even throw one punch?” I’m torn. And as for Lucia, one moment she’s shooting bullets and using her brain and then the next she’s the whimpering ride along in a car chase. You see my dilemma.

Because these characters were important and moved along plot, but at the same time didn’t follow through with what they started, I’m eating half the cookie.

The movie fails as an action movie from start to finish. For a spy thriller, it’s not thrilling. There is so much wasted potential in this movie from the plot to the characters. The movie needed tightening and revising to live up to the bare bones that was given to the viewer. (Not that the bare bones are exceedingly original mind you, but that’s not the point.) The Cold Light of Day doesn’t succeed as an action movie and Superman did more to launch Henry Cavill into the public eye than this movie ever would. So much so, that this movie was completely unnecessary. One and a quarter cookies.


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