01/09/2014 11:31 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Movie Review: Cold Comes the Night


You want to root for a little movie like Cold Comes the Night because it works so hard. But, finally, to not nearly enough effect.

Director Tze Chun and his co-screenwriter Oz Perkins try to do the calculus of the thriller but, instead of finding ways to grab us, they tell us a story that is far too easy to tune out. The equation they create and solve only ever goes where you expect. Even at those moments when you're not sure what will come next, you have a pretty good hunch.

The set-up is promising: A single mother, Chloe (Alice Eve), lives in a small town, where she runs a ramshackle motel so notorious for its use by local prostitutes that the Child Welfare bureau is threatening to take Chloe's grade-school-age daughter to foster care. Chloe also happens to be behind on most of her bills - and she has to split her share of the hooker fees with the local crooked cop, Billy (Logan Marshall Green), who's married but still fools around with Chloe.

Then a car with two men pulls in: a driver (Leo Fitzgerald) and his passenger, Topo (Bryan Cranston). Topo always wears a hat and shades, but he also sports a Boris Badenov accent and has a secret.

This review continues on my website.