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The Cold Light of Day: Bland, Confusing Thriller
For anybody planning to watch this for Bruce Willis, be warned- he’s barely in it. We instead spend the whole film following Cavill who plays his son Will who is the only member of the family left free to roam the streets of Madrid. Will’s family has been kidnapped due to Martin’s (Willis) work with the CIA. He’d taken a briefcase from the kidnappers and Will now has to find the bag, which he suspects is with his father’s double crossing partner Jean (Weaver), and get it back to them before they murder every last member of his family.
The film is, as a whole, painfully average but there’s one part in particular that’ll have you screaming in frustration; we never find out what’s in the freaking briefcase! People are getting killed left, right and centre over a plain, black bag. And no, this trick doesn’t give the bag some kind of epically dangerous aura; it’s just infuriating. But lack of clarity is a theme with this film. The fight scenes and car chases are murder to get through. In the former, you can barely see who’s hitting who because the shaky camera work and fast cuts, while the lighting in the latter makes it really difficult to tell the cars apart. Everything’s just so dark. The car chase, despite having some pretty cool scenes of cars rolling down stairs, is robbed of its tension because it’s so confusing.
Cavill joins the generation of actors who are beautiful to look at but incredibly bland. He just goes through the motions here as a man who discovers his inner badass when his family is threatened yet never really embraces those powers. Echegui plays Lucia, his shrieking female sidekick who, despite this unfortunate character flaw, is the most likeable person in the film. Rounding of the cast is Weaver’s Jean. She skirts the line between angry, irritated and insane yet never quite manages to form a compelling villain mainly because we don’t know anything about her or why getting her hands on the briefcase was worth selling out her partner. At the very least though, she’s a badass with a gun.
What the ads fail to show is that this ‘film’ is actually a feature length commercial for Audi to the point that in addition to the cars scattered around everywhere, there’s actually a huge billboard advertising the brand in the film. It’s astonishingly unsubtle but again, when a film is this dull and confusing, product placement becomes highly fascinating.
Based on Tom Rob Smith’s fictional novel of the same name, Child 44 – a story directly inspired by the case of one of Russia’s most notorious killers, Andrei Chikatilo- has all of the right makings of a genuinely intriguing and enticing thriller. Sadly, though, its power and potential – strongly felt on paper - is nowhere to be found on the big-screen.
The movie is centered on Leo Demidov (Hardy); a Ukrainian orphan of the 1930’s and a man who has grown into an accidental war hero during WWII. He is now a dedicated and committed security officer working for Moscow’s Ministry of State Security, whose primary job involves tracking down traitors. He is extremely good at his job and he leads a rather luxurious life which he shares with his beautiful schoolteacher wife, Raisa (Rapace).
However, his life soon takes a drastic turn when - while trying to extract the names of possible traitors from a prisoner - he learns that Raisa’s name is among the conspirators, eliciting a full-blown investigation into their lives. After refusing to renounce his innocent wife as a spy, he is quickly dishonored and shipped away to the industrial town of Volsk. Almost immediately after his arrival, however, he hears of a discovery of a child’s body near the main railway which just so happens to bear very strong resemblance to an incident that happened in Moscow not so long ago.
Convinced that there is a serial-killer on the loose, Leo soon begins his own investigation, however, doing so in Stalin’s Russia – where murder is labeled as ‘capitalist disease’ - is dangerous and not the easiest of tasks to accomplish.
Sitting through Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44 is definitely not the happiest of experiences. Gruesome, dark and exceptionally gloomy, anyone who is familiar with the novel and has heard or read something about Andrei Chikatilo will know that there is very little room for hopefulness and sanguinity in the movie’s minutes. However, no matter how dark or murky the source material may be – that is not really the problem here - there is no excuse for the lack of focus which is unfortunately, evident in Richard Price’s overly-detailed script. Trying to fit in every single detail from Smith’s novel into its hundred-and-thirty running time is where Child 44 is the weakest; one too many subplots has left the movie vulnerable to a series of plot-holes and gaps in logic.
Luckily, the performances – including Gary Oldman’s terribly underused appearance - are solid and Hardy’s Demidov is someone you can easily root for; his thick Russian accent is not terrible either. However, everything else is. Slow, complicated and downright boring, Child 44’s initial qualities – gripping real-life story, A-list cast and a relatively reliable director – are quickly washed away by an uninspiring script and a tiring on-screen adaptation that never adds up to much.
Daniel Benmayor’s Tracers - a Parkour-themed auctioneer sporting a surprisingly robed Taylor Lautner - is as average as average gets. Worked on by a legion of writers, the film attempts to deliver an action-crime thriller, but apart from a handful of impressive stunts, there is very little here to warrant a rousing and a memorable viewing experience.
Set in and around the concrete jungle of New York City, Tracers follows the story of Cam (Lautner); a bike messenger who is barely making ends meet. Living in a garage and working hard to pay off enormous debts to a particularly unforgiving Chinese gang, Cam’s back is firmly against the wall, so to speak. One afternoon, while zipping and flying through the bustling streets of the city, Cam ends up smashing and totalling his ride into stranger, Nikki (Avgeropoulus) and it’s love at first sight - well at least for Cam, eventually tracks her down before learning that his mystery crush is part of a Parkour-crime gang (what?!) who essentially work for hire.
Intrigued by their free spirit and impressive athleticism, Cam - whose strength and skill is quickly put to the test – soon joins the group. However, it doesn’t take long for him to see that everything is, as is so often in these cases, not as it seems.
Tracers is probably best described as a blend of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfer-themed action crime flick, Point Break – starring Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze - and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s 2012 bike messenger-centred, Premium Rush, minus the occasional hair-raising moments of former and the intensity of the latter. The stunt-work is pretty impressive, there’s a hell of a lot of running, climbing, swinging and rolling and we’ll assume that any Parkour fan out there will find enjoyment in the otherwise dull mix. However, it seems that too much of the production’s energies have been spent on the unconventional stunts at the expense of what ends up being a paper-thin plot, which translates into the classic style-over-substance snag.\
Sporting a little bit more of a grittier and adult look than Twilight fans will be familiar with, Taylor Lautner – who manages to keep his shirt on for most of the film – does most of his own stunt work and as, far as his physical capabilities go, the young actor can’t be faulted. But following his breakout role as a werewolf-morphing, buff charmer-come-creeper, something isn’t clicking as he tries to launch his career into the action world. He has the looks, enough of the right type of talent, the fan-base to break into the genre – as well as a martial-arts background – but Tracers is another underwhelming endeavour for the twenty three year-old.