Published Sep 06, 2012The paradox of movies so bad they're good is that no one involved in the production can be in on the joke. Werner Herzog has come the closest to mastering the tone with didactic-heavy, B-grade bargain bin fare like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done. But even those come tied in with knowing self-consciousness. Contrarily, even SyFy original movies are in on their joke, winking and nodding at the camera with intentional badness, limiting derisive enjoyment.
Fortunately, Mabrouk El Mechri's abysmal spy thriller, The Cold Light of Day, takes itself seriously, reaching the clumsy, ill-conceived heights of incoherent garbage like Supernova, Virus, Catwoman and The In Crowd. Every moment is filled with unnecessarily stylized and thematically stunted stylizations, Dadaist dialogue and a delightfully miscalculated and unfocused central performance from Henry Cavill that would easily win the Razzie for worst actor if anyone bothered to watch this.
Of course, this isn't entirely the fault of Cavill since the plot throws him into a family sailing boat celebration in Spain without a great deal of context, acting sullen because his loosely defined business has gone bankrupt. After some ill-conceived familial exchanges where none of the characters are remotely developed, Will (Cavill) swims ashore to get away from his controlling dad (Bruce Willis), only to return to a ransacked, empty vessel.
From here out, this standard issue thriller follows the usual template for these sorts of films, with Will learning that his father is actually a CIA agent – something that doesn't phase him at all – and running around Spain from various baddies looking for a briefcase, including Sigourney Weaver, presumably as a bored sociopath.
Amusingly, Cavill spends most of the movie having irrational freak-outs in front of strangers, only to respond indifferently to potentially dead family members. And since El Mechri literally speeds by anything resembling character reflection or development with a ridiculous camera angle or awkwardly styled shot involving a mirror or bullet hole, the transitions from death scene to goofy, unrealistic action sequence or completely incoherent car chase are genuinely hilarious.
Adding to the comedy is an abundance of implausible, unintentionally comic conveniences and a character reading from Sigourney Weaver that borders on brilliant and knowingly terrible. Her maniacal laughter in life-threatening situations, as juxtaposed with her indifferent boredom in the face of Will's emotional breakdown, says, "My character has to be completely insane to make any sort of sense."
Lucky for her, she seems to be the only person in on the joke. (eOne)