‘Cold Comes the Night’: Lukewarm

January 9, 2014


You want to root for a little movie like “Cold Comes the Night” because it works so hard. But, finally, to not nearly enough effect.

Director Tze Chun and his co-screenwriter Oz Perkins try to do the calculus of the thriller but, instead of finding ways to grab us, they tell us a story that is far too easy to tune out. The equation they create and solve only ever goes where you expect. Even at those moments when you’re not sure what will come next, you have a pretty good hunch.

The set-up is promising: A single mother, Chloe (Alice Eve), lives in a small town, where she runs a ramshackle motel so notorious for its use by local prostitutes that the Child Welfare bureau is threatening to take Chloe’s grade-school-age daughter to foster care. Chloe also happens to be behind on most of her bills – and she has to split her share of the hooker fees with the local crooked cop, Billy (Logan Marshall Green), who’s married but still fools around with Chloe.

Then a car with two men pulls in: a driver (Leo Fitzgerald) and his passenger, Topo (Bryan Cranston). Topo always wears a hat and shades, but he also sports a Boris Badenov accent and has a secret: He’s losing his sight.

When his driver and the hooker the driver engaged kill each other in a motel-room disagreement, the car is towed. And when the impounded vehicle is returned to Topo, it’s missing the large bale of cash that had been hidden in the dashboard.

So Topo pulls a gun on Chloe and forces her and her daughter to help him get the money back from Billy. Billy is no prize or pushover – and neither is the wife who’s mad that he’s been messing with Chloe.

Too often, stories like this would sentimentalize the notion of a killer going blind: See, he’s human, too – empathize with this assassin. Yet the impending darkness for Topo does nothing to humanize him; indeed, though it is mentioned, the blindness angle barely registers on the plot itself. It allows Cranston to act behind sunglasses, which just seems lazy, though Cranston is not a lazy actor.

Eve, on the other hand, is opaque in an interesting way, easy to underestimate and make incorrect assumptions about. The script doesn’t give her many surprises, but Eve makes the most of them. By contrast, Green seems generically villainous.

If you happened to be flipping channels and came across “Cold Comes the Night,” you might stick with it – if you weren’t put off by its silly title.

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