The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Cold Comes the Night | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Cold Comes the Night

A struggling motel owner finds herself caught between a Russian gangster and a corrupt local cop.

Directed by: Tze Chun
Starring: Alice Eve, Bryan Cranston, Logan Marshall-Green, Ursula Parker

Upstate New York motel owner Chloe (Eve) is struggling to keep not just her business, but her young daughter (Parker), with social services threatening to take the child if she can't find more suitable accommodation. To keep the business ticking over, Chloe allows local crooked cop Billy (Marshall-Green) t use the motel as a base for his prostitution racket. When a client's argument with a hooker ends with both parties dead, Russian gangster Topo (Cranston) takes Chloe hostage, demanding she use her friendship with Billy to retrieve a large sum of money from a jeep taken by police from the crime scene. While at first she's terrified, Chloe begins to see the situation as a way out of her financial predicament.
'Cold Comes the Night' is the type of film America once excelled in, but rarely produces today. It's a film noir two-hander of the kind that might have starred Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, were it made 60 years ago. In the nineties, John Dahl carved out a career filled with such small town color noirs, before disappearing into Hollywood obscurity.
Chun's film recalls a time when American thrillers were filled with captivating characters, rather than infuriating plotholes. Though there are twists and turns aplenty, they all feel organic and never leave you scratching your head as to how the movie suddenly found itself at its current point. Most importantly, Chun, and co-writers Oz Perkins and Nick Simon, never allow the plot to get in the way of the story, something most of today's screenwriters could learn from.
Chun has a real film-maker's eye for visualizing plot and character detail. The simple motif of a roll of notes tells us all we need to know about Chloe's personal financial crisis and almost feels like a character in itself. Cranston barely speaks, barely moves in fact, yet is one of the most genuine characters in 2013 American cinema. There's a wonderful moment when he struggles to fill in a motel registration form; discovering the pen-on-a-string won't reach the form, it takes a few seconds for him to process the simple task of moving the form closer. This tells us he's a man who doesn't like inconvenience and gives us more genuine character background than any amount of dialogue could convey.
Cranston is great, as always, but it's Eve who steals the show. Due to her centerfold physique, she's been cast in roles that merely require her to look pretty in the background (see her laughably gratuitous underwear scene in 'Star Trek: Into Darkness') but proves here that she's a more than capable lead.
It's odd how, in the years since the forties/fifties heyday of film noir, so few films have really addressed the topic of money. 'Cold Comes the Night' is very much a product of its time, dealing with the recession in a way I haven't seen in many recent films. When Chloe frowns at how small her secret roll of money is, there are few of us who don't share her pain.

Eric Hillis