Oh, no! Ripley’s gone bad.
Sigourney Weaver, who 33 years ago broke ground in creating the resourceful female character who could overcome her fears and conquer evil, has opted of late to take on roles of people who are nowhere near to assuming hero status.
Several months ago she was featured as The Director in “The Cabin in the Woods,” someone willing to destroy a lot of people to achieve her objectives. Now she is at it again in “The Cold Light of Day.”
This action flick quietly sneaked into theaters after a few showings of its trailer but not a lot of enthusiasm as far as displaying it to the media pre-release. That usually means trouble, and in this case, that is the case.
“Cold Light” is not a bad movie. It is just one that has very little originality, which is interesting given that among its thousand or so producers is Steven Zaillian, who recently wrote screenplays for “Moneyball” and the English-language version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Too bad he decided to hover in the producer realm rather than serve as a writer.
The screenplay is credited to Scott Wiper and John Petro, two guys who have nothing else significant on their script-writing resumes. And while director Mabrouk El Mechri shows some style in piecing together action sequences, he is straddled with a story that is cobbled together from previous spy-espionage-terrorism films.
Henry Cavill, who played Charles Brandon in the Showtime series “The Tudors,” is the lead character, Will, a young man who reluctantly joins his family for a sail-boating vacation in the waters off Spain and soon finds himself in a life-and-death situation with his family in peril.
Before things spin out of control, it is obvious Will has issues. His business is failing. His relationship with his father, Martin (Bruce Willis) is strained. In the background, Will’s mother Laurie (Caroline Goodall), younger brother Josh (Rafi Gavron) and Josh’s girlfriend, Dara (Emma Hamilton), wear forced smiles, trying to pretend everything is just peachy.
When Will’s lack of concentration while guiding the boat leads to a small mishap, Martin heaves Will’s cellphone into the ocean. Sulking, Will decides to swim to shore and get some things in town. But upon returning, he finds the boat abandoned.
Reporting the missing persons to the local police, Will soon learns the local law enforcement may have knowledge of the disappearance and are trying to seize him. Fortunately, Martin shows up and exhibits some fighting skills Will had never seen old Dad engage in before.
Now it’s confession time. Martin has to admit that all these years, his supposed role as some low-level diplomat for the United States really was a cover. He’s actually CIA, and this recent kidnapping of the family is the result of people wanting some briefcase Martin had confiscated during one of his CIA operations.
Martin calls a “friend,” and it turns out to be Carrack (Weaver). Soon it is evident that Carrack and Will may have had a falling out.
Suddenly, Will finds himself alone, with a lot of questions and no answers — and time running out, as someone keeps calling Martin’s cellphone, now in Will’s possession, saying that if he does not produce the briefcase within a few hours, his family will be killed.
The way Will conducts himself from this point, the movie could be titled “The Clod in the Light of Day.” Meanwhile, Carrack tries to reach out to Will with the typical “you can trust me” assurances you know are not true. It does not help that Carrack is being accompanied by a sharpshooter, Gorman (Joseph Mawle), a man with the crazed look of someone who enjoys taking people down with a high-powered rifle.
Will wisely does not trust Carrack, and has the presence of mind to go through the data in Martin’s cellphone, which helps him hook up with Lucia (Veronica Echegui). Here, the supposed plot surprise of Lucia’s relationship to Martin is no surprise at all.
If there is one element that is not predictable, it’s the revelation of who is after the briefcase.
In the latter part of the movie, as Will gets more beat up yet somehow manages to stay alive, Weaver steals the show as Carrack, a person with no conscience whatsoever, wisecracking her way through chase scenes. Here she channels her famous Ripley, except this is Ripley gone astray.
One positive aspect of “The Cold Light of Day” is that it does not insult your intelligence by having Will, a novice in these cat-and-mouse games with national security at stake, suddenly evolving into an adept operative, outsmarting much more experienced spooks. He really does need a lot of help — and gets it.
This movie also needs a lot of help but does not get it. “The Cold Light of Day” will slink out of the theaters with the same lack of fanfare that heralded its release. In a few months it might even sell a few DVDs before being a schedule filler on Cinemax, Starz, Encore, etc.