Two Thrillers from Sony Pictures
Cold Comes the Night (February 25/14)
Cold Comes the Night follows struggling motel owner Chloe (Alice Eve) as she's forced to help a Russian thug (Bryan Cranston's Topo) recover a bag of confiscated loot, with the film, for the most part, detailing the uneasy alliance that forms between the two disparate characters. It's an intriguing (albeit familiar) premise that's employed to consistently watchable effect by filmmaker Tze Chun, as the director, working from a script cowritten with Oz Perkins and Nick Simon, does a nice job of initially establishing the two central characters and their respective circumstances. (It doesn't hurt, of course, that both Eve and Cranston are very good here, with the latter delivering a menacing performance that's nothing short of riveting from start to finish.) The engrossing midsection ensures that the viewer is drawn into the proceedings to an increasingly palpable degree, with the engaging atmosphere heightened by the presence of several irresistibly tense sequences - including a terrific scene detailing Chloe's efforts to surreptitiously procure an item from an inhabited house. And although the film does peter out to a slight degree in its final stretch - the narrative adopts a decidedly over-the-top quality that doesn't quite jibe with what came before - Cold Comes the Night is nevertheless a better-than-average thriller that benefits from its striking performances and refreshingly brisk running time.
A misfire of epic proportions, Magic Magic follows a young American (Juno Temple's Alicia) as she arrives in South America to spend time with her cousin (Emily Browning's Sara) and several friends (including Michael Cera's Brink) - with problems ensuing as Alicia's mental state slowly-but-surely begins to crumble for mysterious reasons. Filmmaker Sebastián Silva has infused the early part of Magic Magic with a slow-moving and uneventful feel that is, to put it mildly, somewhat off-putting, as the viewer's efforts at connecting to the characters are, as a result, stymied on a decidedly persistent basis - with Cera's quirky, unapologetically bizarre performance standing as one of the movie's few compelling attributes. And although Silva has peppered the narrative with a handful of intriguing moments - eg Alicia agrees to be hypnotized to calm her nerves - Magic Magic grows increasingly pointless (aggressively so) as time progresses and it does become more and more difficult to overlook the movie's emphasis on time-wasting, padded-out scenes (eg Alicia wanders around the woods in the dark). By the time an absolutely interminable healing-ceremony sequence rolls around, Magic Magic has decisively established itself as an utterly unwatchable trainwreck of a movie - to the extent that one can't help but wonder just what Silva originally set out to accomplish with this incompetent mess.