There’s nothing worse than a dull film – one free of distinguishable factors that’s neither terrible nor outstanding, but merely sufficient. And that, regrettably, is the perfect way to describe crime-thriller Cold Comes The Night. The second feature from Chicago-born screenwriter and director Tze Chun may capture a decently dark and eerie mood through its motel backdrop, but is too lacking in both an upholding narrative and worthwhile payoff to fully engage audiences.
The owner of a motel in the middle-of-nowhere, Chloe (Alice Eve) is struggling to make ends meet and keep child services off her back. Her world is thrown into further disarray when near-blind criminal Topo (Bryan Cranston) takes her and her daughter hostage after his car, which contains thousands of dollars, is impounded by the police. Left with no other choice, Chloe is forced to act as Topo’s eyes in recovering his lost cash, an undertaking that has the potential to set her free.
There’s plenty of twists and turns thrown into the mix by screenwriters Chun, Osgood Perkins and Nick Simon during the course of the films appreciatively slim run time in a desperate attempt to keep it frequently puzzling (characters’ motives are altered and revelations are made at regular intervals). Yet instead of achieving their desired effect of sucking the audiences further and further into the fold, they only serve to unnecessary complicate – and, on more than one occasion, lampoon – matters.
It’s miracle, then, that such a film could be so competently acted and directed. Chun utilises the desolate motel backdrop and Chloe’s unstable personal life well to establish a nicely sombre, icy cold mood that at least takes some of the weight away from the haphazardly constructed screenplay. Likewise, Eve proves herself a more than capable leading actress, and is ably supported by Cranston, even in spite of his dubious accent and one-word responses.
The strengths administered through the direction and respectable performances may provide some intermittent bright spots, though ultimately there isn’t enough of an underlying concreteness to make Cold Comes The Night anything more than a passable thriller. It’s quite frankly a disappointment given the talent involved (Eve, in particular, who’s never been better), but then not a complete surprise either.