Movie review: 'Cold light of Day' - formula fail

Published: September 16, 2012

An obscure director by the name of Mabrouk El Mechri decides to put a major and a minor star together in an action thriller set in gorgeous Spain.

Before we see whether this gamble worked or not, let’s take a look at the storyline: An exasperated Will (Henry Cavill, best known for his role as Henry the VIII’s best friend in “The Tudors”) comes down from San Francisco to meet his family for a sailing holiday.

He has had a difficult relationship with his father Martin (Bruce Willis), which is painfully emphasised in the first five minutes of the film. The son has work issues, and the father has issues with everything the son does. And it annoys him to no end that his son keeps taking phone calls on the way to the holiday boat.

His only advice on hearing that Will’s company is bankrupt is, “Tomorrow the wind is going to change,” a piece of advice that that is perhaps taken by his son only as a sailing reference.

When Martin can no longer take Will’s incessantly ringing phone, and tosses it into the deep sea, the son decides to swim back to town to calm himself down, instead of giving us a juicy confrontation — leaving me mildly annoyed at being cheated out of a serious man-to-man talk between father and son.

But here is the twist: when Will returns, the boat is gone. And so is his mum and brother — abducted by rival intelligence agents looking to recover a mysterious briefcase in possession of “CIA Agent” Martin by hook or by crook.

So far so good, I think, now the action must start. I mean, how could a Bruce Willis film disappoint in this regard?

But I am wrong. In the next 10 minutes, Martin meets his death. Before he dies, he tells his son “You are a great son.”

This is not some bleeding-to-death-on-sidewalk confession, but rather a just-before-getting-out-of-car-to-meet-CIA-agent confession.

Hence I expect the star to eventually return from the dead to save the day. It just isn’t possible that they would kill their major star in the first 20 minutes of the film. Could they?

What follows is a series of rather typical action scenes, with Will chasing a rogue CIA agent played by Sigourney Weaver and throwing his half-sister Lucia, played by Verónica Echegui, off roofs with merely a television cable tied to her waist.

Apparently the writers Scott Wiper and John Petro do not believe in spicing things up with romance, as even after an obvious chemistry between the two develops, and Lucia tells Will about his father’s intimate relationship with her own mother while standing at a subway station, the swoosh of the incoming train kills the moment.

The super talented Sigourney is wasted as the rogue agent Carrak. She is wooden, and looks weird in the absurd black pinstripe suit that she never changes out of (I guess they spent their entire budget on Willis) and is ineffective in her scare tactics.

As the story progresses, you start to wonder why it all seems familiar. And then a series of images from the previous Bourne films run through your head and you realise that they all have exotic European locations, car chases, CIA involved plot and roofs. Lots and lots of roofs.

This ‘hit action thriller’ formula is present in Bourne Legacy too, but in the absence of a solid, consistent storyline, it is ineffective.

Talented British actor Henry Cavill is completely wasted, despite convincingly playing his role as an American and an action hero. You don’t miss Willis terribly after he dies, though you do wonder if he will return and whether you should even continue watching to see if he does.

The rest of the cast, with the exception of Echegui, are also completely unconvincing. But then the cast can do only so much when the script disappoints.

My two cents: save your money and go catch one of the older Bourne films or simply watch Die Hard 4 for a Bruce Willis-induced adrenaline rush. At least, it will make you want to salute a hero, of which there are none in Cold Light of Day.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 16th, 2012.

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