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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Knight and Day
Knight and Day
20th Century Fox // PG-13 // June 23, 2010
Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 23, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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I like Tom Cruise. I hate it when people just look at the star ratings, but I would guess that the knowledge that I'd call myself a fan and the very low rating in the box to the right sums up everything you need to know about my opinion in relation to yours.

If you really want to know, though, I suppose I think Cruise has got the right blend of movie star and acting chops. Sure, the Brad Pitts and George Clooneys of the world may have a better ratio of movie star to actor, but Cruise tends to invest himself in blockbuster roles rather than split things evenly between fun and Real Acting. As someone who enjoys the traditional slate of summer movies, he's the kind of person I like to see, someone who will do a breezy action picture and actually go all in. I thought Mission: Impossible III was crackerjack entertainment, and yet the whole world ignored it because Tom Cruise decided to go a little crazy on national television. Now that a few years have passed, he's back as a secret agent named Roy Miller in Knight and Day, a film I had high hopes would be as loose and funny as Killers looked like a hate crime inflicted on romantic comedies and action movies, but it wasn't meant to be. The movie's a real slog, bogged down by an anemic script that needs to pick up the pace and some of the worst CG I can remember seeing in a big-budget movie.

One of Cruise's trump cards has always been his willingness to make fun of himself (although, based on his lawsuit against a water-squirting prankster, best to let him instigate things). The trailers for Knight and Day, after outlining the movie's paper-thin "super-spy meets an average girl" plot, show Cruise with a pitch-perfect grasp on his own glibness. Unfortunately, those trailers also contain all of his best moments in the movie, and they're edited at a much snappier pace, too. In the finished film, there's the faint smell of flop sweat, as if Cruise wore himself out trying several levels of intensity and then nobody bothered to sort through it. Co-star Cameron Diaz (looking better than she has in years) is equally all over the map as June, finding surprisingly charming footing whenever she's not meant to be shrieking like a schoolgirl. The actors have good chemistry, but the movie insists on knocking June unconscious and separating her from her co-star, which severely roadblocks most of the romantic tension.

Director James Mangold, whose filmography includes everything from Kate & Leopold to Girl, Interrupted, does his best to corral the chaotic script and tries to helm some interesting action scenes, but that CG storms through the movie as if someone was actively trying to get people to leave the theater. Sharpie on the negative would have looked better. How can you spend so much on a movie and then approve such terrible visuals? (I hate thinking that supposed professionals got paid to pump out this dreck when there are surely people out there who would have done it for less, invested their heart and souls, and had it look far better.) Beyond that, these aren't just "action" visuals, they're actually necessary. If you never believe Cruise is in any danger, the punchline of his glib, friendly attitude has no setup to pay off.

If there's anything that could have saved the picture, some speed would have been nice. I imagine if Fox coughed up for a truly great action setpiece, finished the effects, and cut the fat, the movie might've been a lightly agreeable ride, if not the movie the trailers advertised. Really, those trailers are part of the problem: since the conceit of the film is so old hat and simple, and because the viewer's already had a taste of what happens in the second and third acts, it's hard not to watch scene after scene of supposedly glitzy action or June slowly coming to terms with Roy being a spy and not get really, really bored. There are a few good jokes, like an extended bit where Diaz becomes a blabbermouth after being injected with a truth serum, and a somewhat funny but poorly-executed recurring gag where Diaz's character floats in and out of consciousness while Cruise alludes to doing amazing things -- but that's about it. I guess Paul Dano also has a tiny role as an oddball genius, but I don't thing being present and in costume should count in favor of a movie.

All of the above indicates that Fox doesn't know what it wants out of this picture. A blockbuster? A crowd-pleaser? A romance? An action movie? Who cares, just set a date, assemble some big stars, hire a competent director, and the drink will mix itself, right? Apparently not. The original title for Knight and Day was Wichita, which actually makes sense, seeing as Roy and June first meet in Wichita. The movie accounts for Knight, but what about Day? Ponder how nine writers (eight uncredited) couldn't paste together a decent script or give it a good title for long enough, and perhaps you'll find you've saved yourself ten dollars.


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