Friday, January 17, 2014

Film Review: Cold Comes the Night

Copyright: Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions
I can’t make up my mind is this film riding on the wave that  Bryan Cranston left with the TV show Breaking Bad, or is it just my imagination. In his new role, he plays a professional criminal named Topo, a man who is almost blind. He and his helper one night pull into a small motel and decide to take a break from their current transporting job. The shady motel is operated by Chloe, a single mother who is having problems in almost every aspect of her life. As Topo prepares for sleep, his helper gets into an altercation with a local prostitute, and they resolve their differences with a gun and a knife. Stranded, Topo decides to get some help from Chloe, willingly or otherwise.

The film functions as a micro neo-noir story. The main protagonist Chloe is down on her luck and the incident just adds more misery to her life. Topo wants simple things like the stuff he and his unfortunate helper were transporting. Because of his blindness, Chloe has to act as his agent, first because her and her daughters lives are threatened, and later because she starts to scheme on her own.

Alice Eve plays her steadily and without too much impulse, presenting her as a person whose survival instinct kick into multiple gears. That's why she thinks about staying alive, and tries to find a way out of her old financial predicament. This calculated approach only highlights her plight in the most desperate moments, when her tactics break down and emotions explode. Cranston is good as Topo, but not mind-blowing, as I gradually came to expect from him. The role of the old gangster isn’t that challenging, and the foreign (Polish) accent is completely unnecessary. Topo isn’t Heisenberg, but I couldn’t resist making this comparison throughout the film.

A lot of supporting roles are filled with great actors. Robin Taylor is exquisitely creepy as the jittery Topo’s helper, but I was impressed the most by Logan Marshall-Green as Billy, the dirty cop and Chloe’s lover whom she despises. He plays his character in a unique way, and very skillfully lays out Billy’s opportunistic life. He also shows that both Topo and Chloe look shallow and weakly written, and in the majority of the plot seem like they’re going through the motion without much energy. Other bland parts of the film, like the scene where Topo meets his employers, add to the idea that not much thought was put into the writing of the script.

Cold Comes the Night has all the suspense a dark thriller needs, combined with a looming possibility of violence. It does what it’s supported to do as neo-noir, and its cast also do the right stuff, but its underdeveloped and not too ambitious story leaves it as one of those movies that didn’t realize its potential.