Bruce Willis gets killed in the first reel: “The Cold Light of Day”

September 7, 2012

(The Cold Light of Day was released in Thailand already, so I got an advance taste of this waste of celluloid. Below is a reprint of my orginal review posted April 10, 2012)

Yeah, Bruce gets it about twenty minutes in, just as the plot gets moving. There, see? I just saved you from being as disappointed as I was when I realized that I was going to have to spend the rest of this movie following Henry Cavill around. Because, as I pointed out in my review of his last starring feature, Immortals, Cavill is a terrible action lead. He’s pretty much the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with today’s crop of leading men: he’s a pretty boy with chiseled physique, but you don’t believe for a minute he could hold his own on a Milwaukee bowling alley, let alone with some international thugs. Every time the little twerp is on screen, one word ran through my head: DOUCHETARD.

So, The Cold Light of Day (the title means nothing, btw) is another one of those American-goes-overseas-to-a-not-terribly-threatening-place-and-stumbles-into-gunfights movies. I kinda suspect the script was meant for Liam Neeson at some point and then hastily rewritten. So, Cavill plays Douchetard Will Shaw, a young American whose business is on the rocks and who is joining his family for a sailing cruise off the coast of Spain. Douchetard’s Will’s family consists of his mother, younger brother, and his bro’s latest girlfriend. Heading up the family is patriarch Bruce Willis, a Cultural Affairs officer with the Department of State.

The State Department, now available in “BADASS!”

Well, Douchetard Will and Bruce bicker and simmer, because Bruce is, well, Bruce Willis and Douchetard Will is, well a douchetard. If you were Bruce wouldn’t you want to get him to man up a little? Maybe chase him around the backyard with an Airsoft rifle to teach him some survival skills? Well, before they have a chance to do that, they dock near a small beach town and Douchetard Will goes ashore to have a refreshing Coke (literally, the scene in which he buys a Coke is shot in more detail than anything else in the movie). When he returns, though, the boat is empty. Of course the cops are of no help, because in these movies the police in foreign countries basically just exist to be of no help to Americans.

Pretty soon some thugs pick up Douchetard Will, but before they can do anything, Bruce shows up and pounds them into the sand. Seems Bruce wasn’t actually a Cultural Attache (big surprise there—nothing says “bringing American art and music to the rest of the world” like a bald, glowering Bruce Willis), but an undercover CIA operative. They go to the house of one of Bruce’s contacts, a woman named Jean Carrack (Sigourney Weaver). The two of them had just completed an assignment, and now Bruce tells her, the people they took down have kidnapped his family and want the return of a briefcase they took. Then Bruce gets killed by Jean’s sleazy-looking henchman (he has that greasy, leather-overcoat thing going).

“Let’s just get this over with and cash our paychecks.”

Alone, with only his father’s cel phone and gun, Douchetard Will races around Madrid, trying to piece together what has happened and how he can find and save his family. Along the way, he meets Lucia (Veronica Echegui, who has the looks of a young Penelope Cruz, and the doe-like skittishness of Emma Roberts), who assists him. Seems American values weren’t the only thing Bruce was spreading overseas, as Lucia is Douchetard Will’s half-sister. And since Bruce bankrolled her and her friends, so they’re eager to help, too. The movie isn’t terribly clear on that last point, but Douchetard Will clearly wouldn’t last a hot minute without some kind of help, so just go with it.

Um…is there maybe someone else in this movie we can watch for 90 minutes?

So, the two of them spend much of the rest of the movie alternately running from the kidnappers and Jean and Sleaze-boy. To its credit, the movie does its level best to show Douchetard as a guy in way over his head, and never quite becomes some improbable Bourne clone. Problem is that it makes for a frustrating ride. You end up wishing Bruce hadn’t been offed, so there’d be someone with half a brain to take on these dirtbags (the bad guys are all sweaty, swarthy foreigners). It’s also nothing we haven’t seen already in Taken, Unknown, Abducted, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten about.

Somehow he’s even less threatening when he’s holding a gun.

Anyway, we also get stuff like:

* Douchetard Will ties a satellite TV cable around his waist and jumps off a building. Not only does the cable snapping taunt not hurt him, but neither does the three story fall onto, um, nice soft cobblestones.

* Likewise, Lucia wipes out on her motorcycle, skidding along the pavement for a good twenty feet into a parked car, while wearing a skirt, and barely gets a scratch. Apparently she has the hide of an alligator

* Oh yeah, and Douchetard Will gets shot in the kidney, but one of Lucia’s friends—a medical student—cauterizes the wound. Um…I’m not a doctor, but wouldn’t there be some internal bleeding to tend to? And wouldn’t Douchetard need some blood transfusions before he’s well enough to get up and run around Madrid some more?

* Madrid has no police force, as evidenced by the fact that Jean can walk through a busy city street randomly shooting people with complete impunity. Wow, glad there has never been a terrorist attack there…oh…wait…

* Along those lines, an entire Mossad assault team gets into a shootout in an underground parking garage, and then a city square, and there’s not even a siren.

* The movie fumbles the ball badly by casting Willis. Everytime he and Cavill share the screen it’s impossible not to think of Willis in Die Hard when he was Cavill’s age and how little of the same charisma Cavill has.

“When I was your age, I was throwing Alan Rickman off of a skyscraper. You pussy.”

* At the end, Colm Meany shows up to debrief Cavill, and the scene is written as if they’re familiars, except it’s the first time we’ve ever seen Meany.

* Everyone lives happily ever after…despite the fact their dad is dead and he had a second family he never told them about. Well, why get bent out of shape about little things, I suppose.

So that is The Cold Light of Day. Bruce Willis is barely in it. I can’t emphasize that enough.

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