With the role of Walter White behind him, Bryan Cranston will be hard-pressed to follow up the role of a lifetime. In his first movie part since the conclusion of his television magnum opus, Cranston channels Heisenberg, Walt’s meth-kingpin alter-ego, for a Russian mule named Topo in Cold Comes the Night. Unfortunately, after the master class he delivered in Breaking Bad, Cranston’s character in Cold is an ice cube compared to the berg that was Walter White.
Topo—often depicted in intimidating profile—is going blind, but his employers don’t know that, so he’s hired a chauffeur to help him deliver a package across the Canadian border. They’re making good time, so they opt to spend the night at a seedy motel in upstate New York. It’s there that things go very, very wrong, and Topo needs new eyes—those of proprietor Chloe (Alice Eve) and her young daughter Sophia (Ursula Parker)—to help him retrieve his boss’s money from Billy, a corrupt small-town cop (Logan Marshall-Green).
Chloe, it turns out, has history with Billy—history that deters Topo’s end game rather than aids it—and her own reasons for wanting to get her hands on some of that cash. She’s a quick study but perhaps naïve to think they could be partners now.
Directed by Tze Chun and written by Chun, Osgood Perkins and Nick Simon, Cold Comes the Night sometimes telegraphs too much in expositional dialogue, but the character motivations for the most part are clear. Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness), particularly, holds her own as a tough cookie opposite Cranston, even under the scrutiny of cinematographer Noah Rosenthal’s close-ups.
Chun loses control of the otherwise tightly scripted plot in the climax with a character meltdown that goes over the top, and the image of a snow globe that starts and ends the story sacrifices narrative significance for cinematic allusion (cough...Citizen Kane... cough). But otherwise this indie thriller is perfectly serviceable B-movie noir.
Director: Tze Chun
Writers: Tze Chun, Osgood Perkins, Nick Simon
Starring: Alice Eve, Bryan Cranston, Logan Marshall-Green, Ursula Parker
Release date: Jan. 10, 2014