Knight and Day (2010) dir. James Mangold
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Grace, Viola Davis
By Alan Bacchus
I was completely prepared to applaud James Mangold, the adaptive director of varied genre projects such as Copland, Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma, for succeeding in elevating this reportedly old turnaround studio script into a surprise hit. Unfortunately Knight and Day is as stale as it’s title, an uninspired low rent action comedy featuring two actors and a genre way past their prime.
Tom Cruise is Roy, who, in the backstory, is a rogue agent, set up with some kind of double-cross over a North By Northwest-style maguffin, a new fangled device which can save the plane from the energy crisis. We catch up with Roy getting on a plane and being charming to fellow passenger June (Diaz). It’s a rouse though, an attempt to distract her from assassin-style killings he’ll commit in the cabin. After Roy guides the plane by himself to safety, he finds himself reluctantly teamed up with June for the rest of mission, evading the CIA agents and the all other bad guys.
Tom Cruise smugness is consistently annoying, playing a super spy who kills people with impudence and engages in all kinds of death defying action without seemingly being in any real danger. There’s a helluva lot of gunfights, most of them trying really hard to be fun and creative with the gun handling. Jobn Woo style whirling dervish gunplay and crazy stunt work make the action more like Cirque du Soleil acrobatics than anything else. And Cruise’s calm confidence is so overkill we never believe his life is in jeopardy.
But of course, this is ‘comedy’ so we’re supposed to check our rational minds at the door and enjoy the ride, right?
But Knight and Day ultimately fails because Diaz and Cruise just aren’t funny, or maybe it's because the line or situations aren't funny. It's hard to tell. Is the moment when Tom Cruise, rides a motorcycle along side Cameron Diaz's hijacked car, jumps onto the hood, cracks a funny line about her yellow bridesmaid dress then fires his gun at the baddies trailing behind him funny? Not even the affability of Will Smith could save this one. Maybe Eddie Murphy back in his Beverly Hills Cop days. All other action one-liners ring like lame attempts at this buddy comedy 101.
We can’t even rely on the action scenes to push us through the comic lameness. The action scenes are overblown and under directed. This film needs to be made by Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, with funny young people like Shia Leboeuf or Joseph Gordon Levitt, or James Franco. A much better film of the same ilk, but with much less star power and hype is Shawn Levy’s Date Night. But that film works solely because of the comic timing and chemistry of Tina Fey and Steve Carell.
Little moments like the steroid-induced massive double Uzis which Cruise brandishes in the warehouse shootout scene demonstrate that Mangold is simply the wrong guy to make this film, or at least made it 20 years too late. This failed picture fizzles out like a bygone Stallone vehicle from the early 80's/90’s.
‘Knight and Day’ is available on Blu-Ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment