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How “Bad” is Bryan Cranston’s “Cold”?

January 14, 2014

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Sometimes it takes a great actor to give a truly terrible performance. Marlon Brando proved that over and over again in the final years of his career. Now Bryan Cranston follows up his transformative performance as Breaking Bad‘s Walter White—arguably the greatest acting achievement we’ve seen so far this century—with a just-plan-bad turn as a nearly blind, Yakov Smirnoff-accented criminal in Cold Comes the Night, a soft-boiled “thriller” that debuted quietly in theaters over the weekend and became available on VOD today.

Granted, it’s too much to expect Cranston to match what he accomplished over 62 episodes of Breaking Bad in a 92-minute (including 10 minutes of closing credits!) B-movie. But his ludicrously named character, Topo, remains strictly one-dimensional until his out-of-nowhere final scene. He’s far closer to Scarface than Mr. Chips, and it was a mistake for Cranston to take on another wrong-side-of-the-law role so soon. 

Topo checks into a motel/brothel run by a struggling single mom (Entourage and Some Velvet Morning‘s Alice Eve, who continues to land lead roles despite no evidence of talent or charisma). When his nephew/driver is murdered and the bag of cash they’re transporting disappears, Topo takes the woman hostage and clashes with her corrupt-cop paramour (The O.C. and Prometheus‘ Logan Marshall-Green, a live wire who can’t seem to find the right project that will turn him into a star).

Part of the problem with Cranston’s work is that he never removes his sunglasses, so you can’t see his eyes. Even Jamie Foxx took off the shades every now and again in Ray. But the film’s fatal flaw lies in its script, cowritten by director Tze Chun. He doesn’t give us any reason to care about the characters, so we don’t.

Cranston’s upcoming big-screen roles in the latest unnecessary Godzilla reboot and (it’s rumored) as Lex Luthor in the Batman/Superman movie don’t bode well, although it might be interesting to see him reteam with Argo‘s Ben Affleck in a very different context. One would hope he’d draw inspiration from Gene Hackman’s Luthor in 1978’s Superman, and not, say, Marlon Brando’s Jor-El.

Perhaps Cranston’s next great reinvention will come onstage: He’s playing LBJ in All the Way, which begins previews on Broadway next month. With his lack of physical resemblance to the towering Texan, it seems like a stretch. But who knew Malcolm in the Middle‘s milquetoast dad, Hal, could morph into New Mexico’s A-1 meth dealer?

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One Comment
  1. Was very disappointed seeing how poorly this film did. I only considered watching it because of Cranston, but now I am doubting it.

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