The Cold Light of Day (2012)

(On Cable TV, September 2013) The risk in relying on familiar thriller tropes is that while they can provide structure, they can’t, in themselves, substitute for wit and originality.  It’s not a bad idea to propose as a premise an American tourist in Spain getting caught in a complex web of espionage thrills and double-crosses, but it has to be handled with some competence.  Alas, The Cold Light of Day is a purely generic product down to its meaningless title, and a roster of familiar actors can’t save the film from by-the-number plotting, familiar plot points, murky motivations and tedious pacing.  Henry Cavill gets (and fumbles) a chance to prove himself a contemporary action hero as he finds himself alone and running in Madrid, but he’s easy to forget when sharing scenes with Bruce Willis (as a father with a hidden second and third life) and Sigourney Weaver (as a immediately-suspicious high-level intelligence officer).  Much of the film is straight out of the “man running for his life” thriller sub-genre, and while director Mabrouk El Mechri has the occasional good eye for filming action scenes, they feel overlong and perfunctory in the middle of such a familiar framework.  (The final car chase definitely has its moments, but it’s too long by at least half its duration)  While The Cold Light of Day will act as a pretty good showcase for Madrid’s tourist attractions, it’s not much of a calling card for anyone else involved: the characters are uninvolving, the narrative excitement is flat and nearly everything about the film seems wasted.  For a film produced with decent means and known actors, there isn’t much here to distinguish it from a run-of-the-mill TV movie.

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