After earning praise for his first feature Children of Invention (2010), Tze Chun returns to cinemas with follow-up Cold Comes The Night (2013). Whilst the presence of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston will undoubtedly pique interest, Chun’s latest is an overly safe sophomore offering. Set against a wintry backdrop, Cold Comes the Night centres on Chloe (Alice Eve), a single mother who runs a shabby motel with her daughter, Sophia (Ursula Parker). She allows a prostitution ring to run on the premises under the supervision of bent cop Billy (Logan Marshall-Green), whose affection for Chloe is never reciprocated.
En route to deliver cash to his boss, near-blind Polish criminal Topo (Cranston) comes to the motel for the night, but after his driver is killed in an accident the felon forces Chloe to help him recover his stolen money. Though frightened, Chloe attempts to capitalise on the situation by making a deal with the criminal to split the cash. The uneasy relationship between Chloe and Topo forms the film’s backbone. It’s easy to identify with the former’s plight, but although he is the antagonist of the piece Topo’s ailment also beggars some sympathy over time. In addition to these well drawn-characters, Cold Comes the Night makes good use of its secluded motel setting, which adds to the overall foreboding atmosphere.
Whilst the central relationship is at times effective and entertaining, the straightforwardness of the plot is the most memorable aspect of Chun’s film. All good thrillers comprise of powerful twists and turns that audiences never see coming, but those moments here are largely predictable and seldom achieve the desired impact. Additionally, the flawed screenplay reaches its lowest point at the worst possible juncture in the needlessly over-the-top climax. After small roles in summer blockbusters such as Men in Black III and Star Trek Into Darkness, London-born Eve – who sports a spot-on American accent here – is impressive in the challenging lead role. As Chloe’s situation becomes ever more desperate, Eve continually elevates her performance.
Contrastingly, Cranston’s Polish villain sounds increasingly more Russian as the plot thickens, an accent which the actor ironically nailed in recent animated sequel Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012). Nonetheless, it’s another well-performed turn from the Breaking Bad star, and he portrays Topo’s sight problems with appropriate nuance. It’s unfortunate then that the film’s quality of the acting is not matched by more adventurous material. Without its two lead stars, Cold Comes the Night would be little more than a glorified DTV also-ran.