Chloe (Alice Eve) is single mom who works the desk of a small town motel when she’s not cleaning the rooms or taking care of her daughter. It’s a drudgery only made worse by a visit from a Child Protective Services agent who tells Chloe the motel is not a suitable living arrangement for her little girl. She’s given two weeks to fix the impossible situation, but before she can even dwell on her misery two men come looking to stay the night.
One won’t survive to morning, but the other, a partially blind immigrant named Topol (Bryan Cranston), discovers that the Jeep he arrived in has been taken into police custody along with the other man’s body. He forcibly enlists Chloe’s help in retrieving a certain something hidden inside the vehicle, but Billy (Logan Marshall-Green), a local and very dirty cop, complicates things by being a greedy bastard.
Cold Comes the Night is a simple little thriller that delivers the goods with a very economical style. It succeeds in part because it doesn’t extend its reach beyond the basics, but just as important are the trio of solid performances and some relatively sharp directing and writing by Tze Chun.
While it’s not a single location thriller, the film makes the most out of limited locales. The motel is central to it all, and the film sets the stage well with early scenes revealing it to be sketchy way station for travelers and prostitutes alike. The first hint that Billy isn’t on the up and up comes in Chloe’s protests to him that they have to stop letting the “girls” bring their dates there. She’s oppressed by her situation as evidenced by her multiple roles on the job and her daughter’s realization that other little girls don’t live in motels.
Russian mobsters, Billy’s high strung wife, and Topol’s assistants all come into play, but the film only gives time to what’s necessary. We’re not privy to back story or details, but the gaps are more informational than necessary to the narrative meaning viewers can try and fill in the gaps if interested but aren’t missing anything important. The downside here though is that the simplicity results in a lightweight experience. In engages, but it won’t stay with you.
Eve and Marshall-Green are recognizable faces, and both turn in good performances that differ slightly from their usual fare. His short-fused cop is aggressive and reactionary, and he very quickly becomes a convincing threat. By contrast, Eve presents Chloe as a near sedate woman who’s seemingly accepted the life her and her child have been dealt. Small sparks of life are triggered within as she finds opportunities so tantalizing close.
Cranston is probably the big draw here, especially as he comes off the celebrated series finale of one of television’s greatest shows, Breaking Bad. His appearance suggests the film was produced between seasons five and six, and while his character is far more than simply Walter White with a Russian accent there are unavoidable similarities. Namely, he’s a very bad man with an occasionally visible heart.
Cold Comes the Night is a low-key suspense flick that will appeal to fans who don’t require explosions, stunts, and set-pieces from their thrillers. Cranston has perfected the cold, gruff antagonist role by this point, and fans will enjoy his turn here. The film itself is solid in its minimal nature and entertains through its run time, but once the end credits roll its lack of substance will most likely see it fade fairly quickly from memory. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either.
The Upside: Well written with no fatty tissue; solid characters and performances
The Downside: May be too simple and straightforward; somewhat forgettable
On the Side: Perhaps as an ode to Breaking Bad, the film opens with a glimpse at its own ending.