Cold Comes the Night: Film Review

He's playing a bad guy again, but Bryan Cranston's Slavic-accented criminal is no Walter White, and this is no "Breaking Bad."

Bryan Cranston, in his first post-"Breaking Bad" screen role, plays a half-blind criminal in this crime drama.

Serving as another reminder of the gap in quality between dramatic episodic television and most of what shows up on theater screens, Cold Comes the Night marks Bryan Cranston's first big screen appearance since wrapping up his award-winning run on Breaking Bad. While the actor lends his formidable presence to the proceedings, this rote thriller mainly succeeds in squandering his talents. Being given a limited theatrical release, the film will likely generate some interest on home video formats thanks to the cast that also includes British actress Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Logan Marshall-Greeen (Prometheus).

Cranston, looking much like he did in his last season as Walter White, plays Topo, a visually impaired career criminal running drug money through upstate New York en route to Canada. When his hapless nephew/driver gets killed in a violent encounter with a prostitute at a seedy motel, their car containing the loot gets impounded by the police.

The half-blind Topo is thus forced to resort to kidnapping the motel's proprietress Chloe (Eve) and her young daughter (Ursula Parker) to retrieve the money with the help of her former boyfriend (Marshall-Green), a crooked cop who has access to the impounded car. Double crosses and violent confrontations ensue, with Chloe attempting to score some of the cash herself to stave off the state authorities who threaten to take her daughter away.

Director Tze Chun manages to provide some taut atmospherics to the proceedings but is ultimately hampered by the contrived situations and cliche-ridden dialogue of the screenplay he's co-written with Nick Simon and Osgood Perkins (Anthony's son). Not helping matters is the thick Slavic accent Cranston employs, making him sound like he's auditioning for a regional theater production of Dracula.

Still, the actor is undeniably compelling, delivering a physically minimalist performance that generates much tension with mere stillness. And, in a marked departure from her usual eye candy roles, Eve, sporting a credible American accent, is every effective, providing unexpected layers of toughness to her sympathetic character.

Opens Jan. 10 (Stage 6 Films/Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Production: Syncopated Films

Cast: Alice Eve, Bryan Cranston, Logan Marshall-Green, Ursula Parker, Leo Fitzpatrick

Director: Tze Chun

Screenwriters: Tze Chun, Osgood Perkins, Nick Simon

Producers: Mynette Louie, Trevor Sagan

Executive producers: Scott Halle, Rick Rosenthal, Nick Morton, Jacob Pechenik, Ali Jazayeri

Director of photography: Noah Rosenthal

Editor: Paul Frank

Production designer: Laurie Hicks

Costume designer: Anney Perrine

Rated R, 90 min.