A by-the-numbers thriller that often looks as murky as its plot, “The Cold Light of Day” runs up a high ammo count in pursuit of a MacGuffin that’s a supposed political hot potato, with a few whatchamacallits and whoevers thrown into the suspense-free action.
The Spain-set attempt at international intrigue stars Henry Cavill as an American businessman whose vacation turns into a ping-ponging series of car chases, ad hoc rendition-type interrogations and de rigueur shootouts in subterranean garages. To ponder the involvement of Sigourney Weaver, Bruce Willis, Colm Meaney (in a cameo) and the accomplished Moroccan-French actor Roschdy Zem leads to only one explanation: “Spanish holiday.”
Cavill plays Will, who arrives from the States for a week of sailing with his parents (Willis, Caroline Goodall), younger brother (Rafi Gavron) and his brother’s girlfriend (Emma Hamilton). However insistently the script by Scott Wiper and John Petro tries to create back story, the gathering feels as much like a family as Willis’ character, Martin, acts like the cultural attaché he says he is.
Father-son tensions and Will’s distracted boatmanship provoke Martin to toss Will’s cellphone overboard. On the one hand, this turn of events feels like an endorsement of the turn-off-your-phone messages that precede the movie. On the other, it conveniently denies Will the benefit of modern tech when disaster strikes, leaving him alone and targeted.
The writers and director Mabrouk El Mechri set up an old-school man-on-the-lam scenario, leaving their protagonist to his own devices after his family goes missing. But they forget the old-school character development that makes the action matter. Cavill, who will be the next big-screen Superman, brings no particular steel or grit to Will’s fight to save his family, who are being held hostage for a certain briefcase.
The script throws around phrases like “intel,” “terrorist” and “rogue operative,” but as time bombs go, the briefcase-versus-loved-ones ultimatum barely ticks. It’s as rote a screenplay contrivance as the story’s escalating gunplay, crunch of vehicular metal and Weaver’s ice-queen assassin.
‘The Cold Light of Day’
MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: In general release