Tom Cruise jumped on a couch. Get over it already. Sure, the guy was a little overzealous, but he's a rich movie star who gets to have sex with Katie Holmes. Get over it. The truth of the matter is, before and after that fateful Oprah episode, Tom Cruise is a good actor. He's also a good actor who picks his projects very carefully and rarely stars in an outright disaster. Looking at his 30-year career, Tropic Thunder is the weakest movie on his resume - and that one won Cruise acclaim.
To get to the point, all indicators suggested Cruise's latest action film Knight and Day would be a good movie. The trailers were slick and funny and took advantage of the crazy aura that follows the actor around like Michael Jackson pedophile lawsuits (too soon?); after all, if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em, and that's just what Cruise did here. If people aren't buying you as a super badass secret agent a la Ethan Hunt anymore - oh, and everyone thinks you're insane - why not play an eccentric/borderline secret agent who has gone off his rocker?
Knight and Day does capture the crazy persona of Tom Cruise, real or distorted who but his inner circle know, extremely well. Cruise playfully bounces off the walls in most scenes, firing off zany dialogue that embraces the fact he (the character or the actor) likes to make himself sound cool and awesome. It's this fact that makes Knight and Day alluring. Coupled with director James Mangold, who did such films as 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, Girl, Interrupted and Cop Land - oh, and Cameron Diaz (no, she's in the movie) - the odds were good.
In it, Cruise plays Roy Miller, a secret agent who bumps into innocent June Havens (Cameron Diaz) one too many times. Already under surveillance by the government he has apparently betrayed, Miller's activities get noticed and June is sucked into the middle of an arms race where it isn't clear who the good guys are - if there are any. Before she knows it, June has traveled halfway around the world with Roy to save the day, or serve as an accomplice.
The movie is an action-comedy, though it struggles to find the right balance. The best action-comedies are ones that take both the comedy and action seriously; Mangold unfortunately takes a very loose approach. Knight and Day meanders from one scene to the next, deciding to be funny or serious on a whim without much structure or flow. Pacing is an afterthought; it shifts from intense moments to halting lulls multiple times throughout the twisting story. Knight and Day is a movie that was better on paper than it is in action.
The movie is perfectly watchable and at times thoroughly entertaining; it also shows sparks of true wit and genius. A montage of scenes that occur while June is drugged up is especially good, as we see glimmers of a variety of action scenes that occur off screen, the highlight being Cruise, under lock and key, swinging from his ankles and telling June she's going to be OK. It's these moments that give you real hope that Knight and Day is about to kick into high gear.
Unfortunately, as far as comedy goes, most of the best punch lines are in the trailers. The genius "I'll kill myself and then her" line isn't as nearly as funny having already seen it a dozen times, and many of the other jokes or action sequences suffer because they've already been shown in the marketing footage. Knight and Day leaves you wanting more clever stuff, and it rarely delivers the goods.
Knight and Day could have been improved significantly in two ways:
1. Take the action seriously. Even though the movie is an action-comedy, it isn't a spoof. It has real action sequences that are, to some degree, intended to get the adrenaline going. Mangold has the talent to deliver authentic action, but the sequences in Knight and Day typically come off as cheap and uninspiring. The visual effects are downright bad. Whether this was an intentional choice or due to cutbacks by the studio who knows, but Mangold has to be blamed for making some odd directing decisions that didn't pan out.
2. Tighten the plot. Knight and Day kicks into gear, and then stops so Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise can hang out on screen for a while. Then things pick up again and it looks like the movie is going to continue to mount as it approaches the climax, but then it comes to a screeching halt again. By the time it gets going once more, the short amount of time remaining leaves just enough time to have an absolutely terrible climax. There are some extremely slow parts in Knight and Day, and this movie just shouldn't have slow parts.
As flawed as Knight and Day is, it is good enough to be worth a rental. Both Diaz and Cruise - especially Cruise - are solid and the movie does have its moments that allow you to envision what could have been. Still, it wavers between two genres and, in lieu of finding that right balance, also fails to be especially funny or exciting. Most of the blame falls on Mangold for not executing in the way he needed to. We need to blame someone else for the bad title, however.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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