The Cold Light of Day is a product-placement travelogue in search of a coherent thriller. A poor imitation of the best Bourne films, it's confusing, illogical, with plot lapses and continuity blunders.
It's yet another fiasco that could devalue Warner Brothers' considerable investment in Henry Cavill as the new Man of Steel.
Simply put, Day is a mess Cavill never rises above.
He plays Will, a failing businessman taking a distracted sailing vacation with his family in Spain. He gets along fine with Mom and his brother. Dad, played by Bruce Willis? Not so much. The guy's a martinet, a regular Captain Bligh on board the boat.
Will goes ashore in a huff, and when he returns, the boat's been moved and his family's gone. A rough encounter with corrupt Spanish cops has him convinced powerful forces have nabbed them. But who?
Since Dad is a CIA agent and not some embassy cultural attache, as he's always said, that could be anybody.
Will is chased through Madrid's scenic plazas, parks, and puertos, past the Benettons and in Audis, Land Rovers, and BMWs. I half expected Cavill to crack, "Whaddaya know, it IS the ultimate driving machine!"
The bad guys — and it's hard to think of any real "good" guys here — want a briefcase. Will falls in with leggy Lucia (Verónica Echegui) in pursuit of that briefcase, and those who have it or want it — an assemblage that includes a sneering, hooting Sigourney Weaver, who seems to be the only member of the cast having a good time.
It's a bad script, full of wheezing torture scenes where Will is slapped silly and forced to sum things up for his torturers — "I've told you over and over again ..."
The chases are jerky, jumpy affairs in the Bourne mold, but not staged or filmed with nearly as much verve. Director Mabrouk El Mechri, who did the witty/ violent Jean-Claude Van Damme "comeback" film JCVD, doesn't have enough game to make this tired plot fresh.
The Cold Light of Day is a loose variation on the "fish out of water" thriller, with Will unable to speak Spanish (he shouts "ENGLISH!" at the hapless Spaniards, as if that'll help), in over his head and as likely to fire off a round into his foot as hit a bad guy. But most everybody here seems out of water, starting with Willis. If he learned anything about sailboats in Jackal back in the last century, he forgot it — how to carry himself, what commands to give — on board what looks like a 65-foot pilot house ketch.
Not that he'd know those terms either.
Questions keep popping up. Where did Dad get a car? How did he get the drop on those bad guys in the middle of nowhere? Who still uses a Blackberry? Wasn't that door Sigourney closed just ripped off her Range Rover?
And Cavill, game though he is, doesn't have the presence to make us ignore all those and go along for the ride. The Cold Light of Day just doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of the cold light of you-know-what.
THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY
Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri. Written by Scott Wiper and John Petro. A Summit release, playing at Rave Franklin park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. Running time:
Critic’s rating: ★★
Will ..............................Henry Cavill
Carrack ............ Sigourney Weaver
Lucia ..................Verónica Echegui