An average guy gets caught in the middle of an escalating government conspiracy and must, as usual, trust no one, beat the clock, dodge the bullets and save the day in Madrid-set thriller “The Cold Light of Day.” A fall release Stateside for Summit, this defiantly retro midrange programmer is rolling into several Euro territories in April, aiming for some quick B.O. pit stops before being crushed by the juggernauts of summer. In the cold light of day, this undistinguished kidnap-rescue tale is unlikely to warm anyone’s balance sheet.
Young business consultant Will Shaw (Henry Cavill) reluctantly flies from San Francisco to Alicante, Spain, for a vacation on his family’s sailboat. Tensions soon become evident between Will and his cultural-attache father, Martin (Bruce Willis), but are smoothed over by Will’s peacekeeping mother, Laurie (Caroline Goodall); his younger brother, Josh (Rafi Gavron); and Josh’s g.f., Dara (Emma Hamilton). Having swum ashore to do some shopping, Will returns to find his family gone, and soon learns they will be executed within 24 hours if a missing briefcase is not delivered to their captors. To nobody’s surprise but Will’s, Martin’s actual job turns out to have scant connection to the arts, and his espionage activities have put his family in jeopardy.
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As the plot unravels and the action shifts to Madrid, Will meets his father’s duplicitous boss, Carrack (Sigourney Weaver); is repeatedly shot at by agency muscle Gorman (Joseph Mawle); and must go on the run when he’s wanted by local law enforcement for the killing of a cop. Hooking up with pretty, feisty Lucia (Veronica Echegui, “The Bunny and the Bull”), Will must evade capture and turn the tables on his many tormentors.
Despite a muscled physique that likely helped him get cast as Theseus in “Immortals” and Superman in the upcoming “Man of Steel,” Cavill reasonably convinces as a jittery civilian who fumbles with a gun. But due to a lightly sketched character courtesy of screenwriters Scott Wiper and John Petro, plus the thesp’s relatively modest charisma and inexpressive range, Will isn’t an especially memorable protag, despite being present in every minute of the pic’s brisk running time.
French director Mabrouk El Mechri (“JCVD”) to some degree exploits the Spanish setting to deliver a fresh context for achingly familiar material. However, with much of the action occurring on streets at night and a climactic shootout unfolding in a multistory parking structure, the pic doesn’t get the most value out of its location lensing. A segment set inside a Madrid nightclub, whose owner (Oscar Jaenada) accommodatingly lends his security team to help Lucia and Will set a trap for one of their adversaries, at least feels authentically southern European.
Since the storyline ultimately involves two countries’ foreign agencies acting with murderous impunity within the jurisdiction of a third, “The Cold Light of Day” coincidentally resonates with current covert actions by Israel and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. Nevertheless, the film’s plot lacks credibility at many levels, and its mechanics are barely supported by character motivation. In the thinly conceived role of Carrack, Weaver gives one of her less convincing and committed perfs.
Tech credits are pro, with the inky blacks of Remi Adefarasin’s high-contrast lensing repping a notably stylish assist. The generic score, courtesy of composer Lucas Vidal (“The Raven”), is unremarkably ever-present, albeit frequently drowned by the screeching tires and crunching metal offered by a busy foley department.