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The Cold Light of Day


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Movie Review

We've all had bad vacations. But probably not quite like Will Shaw's.

It's not that the twentysomething business consultant didn't like the idea of winging off to Madrid for a week of sailing. But, well, his business is struggling, his luggage is lost somewhere in San Francisco, the voyage is with his family and, of course, he and his dad immediately start irritating each other.

Oh, and then there's the kidnapping.

Will barely has time to slip into shorts and sip a cool beverage before his mom, dad, younger brother and bro's girlfriend Dara all disappear in a blink. And when he runs to the shady-looking local police, they goosestep him off to an even shadier-looking thug who offers more hard-fisted questions than anything resembling help.

Will barely gets away from that sticky situation, only to find cops, spy types and hired killers swarming in to try to nab him. Could this have something to do with his dad? Was the man more than just a simple American business guy? Was there something sketchy going on that his dad was neck-deep in? And what gives with this mysterious "briefcase" everybody keeps asking about?

Yep, it's a disaster of a vacation. And if Will can't put all the pieces together quick, it'll be a deadly one too.


Positive Elements

Even though the opportunity is presented to him, Will refuses to abandon his family. He puts his life on the line repeatedly—suffering beatings and gunshot wounds—to try to rescue them. Will meets up with a local young woman named Lucia, and she goes out of her way to help him find his answers, putting herself in danger as well.

Martin has a closet full of secrets, and he and Will clash. But the man still makes a point of telling Will that he's a "great son." A CIA agent later repeats the praise, telling Will that his father would have been proud of his actions.

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Dara lounges onboard the family boat in a skimpy bikini, and we see a casual overview of a Madrid beach with many swimsuit-clad occupants. Women in a dance club wear formfitting, cleavage-baring outfits. Will strips off his shirt to show off his buff physique several times. Josh and Dara kiss, and Martin asks them if they're sleeping together.

[Spoiler Warning] After meeting Lucia, Will asks her if she was sleeping with his father, only to find out that Martin had a second family, and she is actually an unknown sister.

Violent Content

Will is on the receiving end of many beatings, bashings, torturous manhandlings and tumbles that leave him with a growing number of bloody wounds on his body—from cuts all over his face to a bullet wound in his side. It's that gunshot wound that presents the most painful-looking moments of the film as Will screams when a woman probes the wound with her fingers and cauterizes it with a blowtorch-heated spoon.

There are gunfights aplenty here, too. Mossad and CIA agents, along with terrorists, generate lots of bloody splatters and quite a few dead bodies. A shooter blasts away repeatedly at Will, killing a policeman in one attempt. [Spoiler Warning] Will's dad is shot in the chest and left dead in a pool of his own blood (as is a woman later on). Will gets a gun and begins tossing bullets back at attackers, hitting flesh every once in a while.

One of the senior CIA agents, Jean Carrack, goes on something of a rampage at one point—shooting innocent motorists and passersby with an automatic weapon in an attempt to escape from and/or kill Will. She chortles as she plows through an open sidewalk cafe and demolishes numerous vehicles with her SUV.

Some up-close battles involve heads being slammed through car windows and cracked with a closing car door. Foes are felled with smashed and splintered furniture. Foreheads are thumped on walls and bookcases. A guy rolls over a blade in a struggle and comes up with it embedded deep in his side. A fight in a club involves a few sharply cracking bones and a bottle smashed into someone's brow. A vicious car crash leaves a man struggling to breathe while bleeding out. A captured agent burns his own arms in order to escape his bonds.

Crude or Profane Language

Two f-words and a half-dozen s-words. A handful of uses of "h‑‑‑." Jesus' and God's names are misused about a dozen times; God's is combined with "d‑‑n" four or five times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine flows freely at dinner. And Will starts slugging back more of the stuff when he gets a call saying that his company is failing. Patrons at a dance club drink glasses of wine and hard liquor. A stressed out guy gulps vodka.

Other Negative Elements

Various spy actions leave the impression that American CIA personnel and Israeli Mossad agents could be corrupt, or even terrorists.


It's always a bad deal when you realize that all the best jokes in the new comedy you're watching were already revealed in the movie's trailer. It's an equally sour situation when you discover that that same "already seen it in the trailer" frustration can apply to an action pic.

The fact is, The Cold Light of Day has a perfectly serviceable if secondhand Hitchcockian plot: An average Joe goes on vacation only to find himself caught up in a spy intrigue that he must figure out if he wants to save his loved ones. It's an idea rife with twisting possibilities and potential heroism. And the film's star is a handsome guy who'll soon be starring in the new Superman reboot.

In this flick, however, none of that matters a whit. When you're done with it, you feel like all you've seen is some guy run, get beat up, look for help, get bloodied, dig around, get shot, get tortured and limp away. Then things wrap up with a sheet metal-crumpling car chase.

Sound like a trailer or two you've seen lately?

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution





Readability Age Range


Drama, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense



Henry Cavill as Will Shaw; Bruce Willis as Martin Shaw; Sigourney Weaver as Jean Carrack; Verónica Echegui as Lucia; Caroline Goodall as Laurie Shaw


Mabrouk El Mechri (JCVD)


Summit Entertainment



Record Label



In Theaters

September 7, 2012


January 29, 2013

Year Published



Bob Hoose

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