Movie Review: Cold Comes the Night
Pros:It's solidly put together, contains laudable central performances (weird Polish accent aside) and at its best, is reminiscent of a good old-fashioned noir.
Cons:It's decidedly unexceptional and rarely surprises, it fails to match the aspirations to which it aspires, the characters are poorly written
An unexceptional, low-key thriller that stars Bryan Cranston as a Polish sociopath looking to retrieve a substantial amount of lost cash.
Every so often, a film comes along that will leave everyone relatively content, without invoking much excitement in the process. Usually, these movies will get largely positive reviews by virtue of the fact that they are so inoffensive. Phone Booth was an example of this phenomenon — the acting, writing, and directing all seemed fine. It was a standard thriller starring the then-rising Irish actor Colin Farrell, and while it was competently created for the most part, there was something intangible missing. It lacked a spontaneity or unpredictability, which made it little more than watchable.
Cold Comes the Night evokes similar feelings. It is a low-key crime thriller story of a motel owner/single mother fallen on hard times. Chloe (Alice Eve) faces the prospect of losing her daughter when social services come calling, as both are required to regularly inhabit the sleazy, prostitute-ridden motel that the mother has the misfortune to own.
To make matters worse, Chloe and her beloved daughter are taken hostage by a European gangster/sociopath (played by Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame) with bad eyesight named Topo, who is seeking to recover cash from a corrupt cop. Chloe, desperate to prevent her daughter from being harmed, becomes Topo’s reluctant accomplice, compensating for his poor eyesight in the process as he attempts to regain the money he feels is rightfully his.
Cold Comes the Night has an audience friendly-script that should leave some people relatively engaged. It features a spookily effective performance from Cranston (arguably the best thing about the movie, even if his growling Polish accent does sound slightly silly and forced at times) and doesn’t outstay its welcome with its 90-minute running time. The chemistry between Cranston and Eve, meanwhile, is undoubtedly strong.
Yet the endless shots of cash indicate the film is seeking to make a grandiose statement about the corrupting influence of excess, à la superior thrillers of recent times such as Fargo or No Country for Old Men. However, while it’s workmanlike in execution and has the feel of an old-fashioned film noir at times, the script lacks the poetry of the Coens’ best work, ensuring it never comes close to emulating it. Moreover, while the performers give their all, it’s difficult to care for such underwritten and unremarkable characters.
And this mediocre outcome is somewhat of a surprise, given that the film’s director, Tze Chun, has an accomplished CV, including an array of highly touted short films and a 2009 feature debut that seduced Sundance, with New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis writing that it left her “choking back tears”.
But any hope of this movie lingering in the memory is killed by an ending that loses the run of itself. Having watched it in close conjunction with David Lowery’s brilliant Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, I couldn’t help but feel that the latter was the type of film the former so desperately wanted to be, but patently failed to live up to.