Chloe (Alice Eve) and daughter Sophia live in a rundown motel on a lonely highway pit stop. As the proprietor of the motel, Chloe is in financial trouble and has let Billy (Logan Marshall-Green), a corrupt cop, take advantage of her situation. One night, Topo (Bryan Cranston), a nearly blind career criminal, and his driver stop at the motel while en route to deliver cash to an unknown boss. After an accident kills his driver and impounds his car, he takes Chloe and Sophia hostage, and forces Chloe to be his new driver and guide, using Sophia as collateral. They set out after Billy, who has stolen Topo's money from the car. Hoping to escape to a better life, Chloe tries to strike a deal with Topo but soon finds herself in over her head, and a series of double crosses leaves a cloud of mayhem and murder.
As we have all learned, there are very few worthwhile direct-to-Blu-ray titles. While 'Cold Comes the Night' didn't go directly to home video (it had a very brief 22-screen theatrical stint that resulted in just $16,971 in ticket sales), I assumed that it couldn't be that bad – after all, it co-stars Bryan Cranston. After such a great, powerful, critically-acclaimed and award-winning performance in AMC's 'Breaking Bad,' he wouldn't appear in anything too bad, would he? The answer: yes. He would. And he has. 'Bad' character Walter White, Hal in 'Malcolm in the Middle' and his brief-but-fantastic role in 'Drive' made me forget that he's the same guy who showed up in the plane wreck war flick 'Red Tails.' There's no denying his credentials and potentials, but – as 'Cold Comes the Night' reminds us – his track record isn't perfect.
Alice Eve, who you might recognize from last summer's 'Star Trek Into Darkness,' plays the real lead in 'Cold Comes the Night.' Working as the head of a one-star roadside motel, 30-something Chloe is a widow who's scraping by so that she can save money to move herself and her daughter out of their dead-end town. While Eve typically plays eye candy in her movies, she bravely strips off the make-up for Chloe, showing just how run-down the character is. At the start, we don't know exactly how she's gotten into the position she's in. She seems like the victim, but we aren't exactly sure. Having an established motel room arrangement with the local prostitutes gives us the first hint that Chloe may have created her own situational black hole, but as we meet the local crooked police force, she's again made to be the victim. This is the first element of thematic tension that runs throughout the movie: is Chloe a good person in bad circumstances, or is she a bad person who's created her own awful lifestyle. The second source of tension comes from Cranston.
On one average night, Chloe gives rooms to two seemingly disconnected travelers. One is a young man who immediately brings one of the prostitutes into his room, the other is a quiet, bearded man with a thick Russian accent. What Chloe doesn't know is that the two are travel companions transporting something illegal from one place to another. When the young one gets killed in a scuffle with his new lady friend, his car is impounded by the local police, leaving the bearded one high and dry. Played by Cranston, the bearded Russian is Topo. And when Topo sees the police towing away the Jeep with his illegal possessions, he goes into survival mode. Just as we suspect of Chloe, Topo also has secrets. And with the proverbial knife to his throat, he's going to use Chloe to get back on track. Be prepared for brutal acts of violence against women.
The third and final source of tension comes from the town's crooked law enforcer. Logan Marshall-Green, who you might recognize as "Not Tom Hardy" from 'Prometheus,' plays Billy. Prior to Topo using Chloe to do his dirty deeds, we see Chloe with Billy. Despite being crooked, he seems to take care of Chloe. He comes across as a brother – but don't let that initial impression fool you. Billy is a wildcard. You never know what he's capable of. And while he should be a solid draw to the movie's overall entertainment, sadly, he's not. Eve doesn't have great acting range, but she's okay here. Cranston can be brilliant given the character and the direction. His character is decent, but I believe he lacked a lot of direction. But Marshall-Green is undeniably bad as Billy. A lot of people had a hard time with his performance in 'Prometheus' (among other things). I don't understand what all the fuss was about then, but I definitely think he's problematic here. Any tension that should be created by his off-the-handle potential madness is completely undermined by his unintentionally campy performance. I'm not saying that Marshall-Green single-handedly ruins 'Cold Comes the Night,' but it wouldn't be nearly as bad had the role been played by someone with real acting chops.
In the long run, the element that truly destroys 'Cold Comes the Night' is its by-the-book screenplay. With its cookie-cutter plot and an opening scene that gives us a long glimpse of the climax, it's easy to figure out where the movie is going. The story and twists are just as generic as the movie's title. As a die-hard fan of 'Breaking Bad,' I love Bryan Cranston – but that hardly a good reason to sit through this. 'Cold Comes the Night' is so unoriginal that I completely forgot it the moment that I put the disc back in its case. No matter how curiosity you might be, I don't recommend dabbling with 'Cold Comes the Night.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony has placed 'Cold Comes the Night' on a Region-free BD-50 that comes in a single-disc Vortex Eco-Elite keepcase. Once you pop the disc into your player, a bunch of skippable content runs: a Sony vanity reel, a Sony Blu-ray commercial and trailers for 'Bad Country,' 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' 'The Pretty One,' 'Squatters' and 'Breaking Bad.'
'Cold Comes the Night' has been given a fantastic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This Blu-ray is the perfect night-and-day comparison between the low-budget celluloid indie filmmaking of 10-plus years ago and the cost-effective digital style used by independent filmmakers today. This double-edged sword offers the potential for fantastic micro-budget movies to look just as superb as big-budget studio flicks, but it also means that anyone with a camera can make a nice-looking movie with a bad screenplay – which is the case with 'Cold Comes the Night.' Visually amazing; cinematically a dud.
The best and most eye-catching aspect of 'Cold Comes the Night''s video transfer is how doggone sharp it looks. The opening sequence reveals hundreds – if not thousands – of small shards of a shattered plate glass window scattered across the ground. If you felt so inclined, I'm certain that you could freeze the frame and accurately count exactly how many pieces are shown in the frame. Throughout the movie, you'll be able to see the finest details in Alice Eve's face: the tiniest fuzzy facial hairs, defined pores and something that I never before noticed about Eve – her two different eye colors. One eye is a completely different color from the other!
The movie's overall color palette is – based on the movie's title, go figure – cold. Fleshtones are drained of life-giving color. The constantly cloudy skies give everything a pale gray hue. Vibrant colors appear from time to time, like the flashy reds and blues of police squad cars. Black levels are rich, dark and deep with crushing often used to hide objects in the shadows. I assume that this is more of a directorial decision than a flaw of a Blu-ray.
'Cold Comes the Night' comes with a good enough 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. You will never notice it lacking, but it's not great enough to impress.
From the opening scene on, the movie's syncopated score does a great job of filling the space. Perhaps this is the reason for the audio never feeling hollow or lifeless. As the plunked notes alternate in timing, they subtly bounce around from channel to channel. Surprisingly, the score itself is pretty good. It matches the tone and mood of the movie very well.
The vocal track is also good. Clean and clear. Never a distorted or blown out voice. The effects are the same way. When the settings and scenarios call for it, the effects are dynamically mixed, placing sounds in their relative space with proper volume levels. One car chase sequence even gives us some solid imaging.
All in all, the audio is completely passable, but not exemplary in the slightest.
Unless you knew that 'Cold Comes the Night' played on 22 arthouse screens in January 2014, you'd think that this was a direct-to-Blu-ray title. After watching it, I'm surprised that the Blu-ray didn't go directly to the discount bins. (At the moment, it's online price averages north of $20.) 'Cold Comes the Night' isn't awful, it's just generic and highly forgettable. The movie's poster and Blu-ray art make Bryan Cranston appear to be the star, but he really just turns in a one-note supporting performance that could have been filmed over the course of a week. Alice Eve plays the true lead, as the movie is really about a single mother fighting to survive. The most success that 'Cold Comes the Night' could have ever had is if the Lifetime channel picked it up and aired the hell out of it. Yes, I'm saying that 'Cold Comes the Night' feels like a Lifetime movie with F-bombs and a few moments of briefly gritty violence. No, that's not an endorsement. As for the Blu-ray, the video quality is fantastic, but the audio is simply okay. With only one real special feature - seven minutes of deleted scenes - it's definitely lacking. I was originally intrigued by 'Cold Comes the Night' simply because of Cranston, but it's not worth watching.