Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie Review: Knight and Day

It's not a flop so much as a dud. I would expand, but it doesn't really feel worth it. Here's the review!

Secret Agent Bland
Knight and Day should have tried harder

Tom Cruise is going to have to die.

Sucks to be him, but that’s his only shot at redemption. Somehow a country that has bleached Michael Jackson’s molestation lawsuit settlements from their collective consciousness as readily as he bleached his skin has decided that Cruise’s daffy giddiness over a woman he remains faithfully married to and a curt exchange with a morning TV personality is nigh unforgivable. More people leap to defend statutory rapist Roman Polanski than Cruise, who is guilty of being a misguided douche-nozzle and nothing more.

Why does this matter? Because Knight and Day is friggin’ old-school, yo. It works on the now-fading premise that you take a ridonkulously charismatic male movie star (Cruise) and pair him with a high-beam-smile-wielding mega actress (Cameron Diaz), and the rest will sort itself out. Plot, schmot. Even the title of the movie is gibberish; Cruise’s character’s last name is revealed to be Knight but the day part was pulled from behind someone’s ear like a phantom quarter. They are selling Cruise and Diaz and that’s it. Problem is, nobody’s willing to buy the former, and the latter can barely make being unconscious seem convincing. The film was doomed from concept.

And what a slim concept. It goes like this: Roy Miller (Cruise) is a superspy on the outs with his agency because he got framed when he tried to stop his dirty partner, Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), from trying to sell a perpetual power battery, designed by a wunderkind named Simon Feck (Paul Dano), to mobsters. Whilst in mid-escape, Miller gets smitten with June Havens (Diaz), a sweet nobody who gets pulled into shootouts, shoved into vehicles and wedged into a bikini. Folks, that’s it.

Diaz is given exactly two things to do: smile and pass out from being drugged. Had screenwriter Patrick O’Neill and director James Mangold asked her to do just one of those, she’d have been pressed to her limit. Cruise, on the other hand, is breezy action brilliance. He’s a double-barrel blast of toothy grins showcased in stunts he clearly did himself. That is to say, the ones they’d let him do, as opposed to the ill-conceived computer-generated ones. Speaking of which, note to O’Neill and Mangold: The running of the bulls is in Pamplona, not Seville, and those weren’t bulls, those were badly pixelated blobs with horns. Try harder.

That advice extends to other areas as well, as O’Neill so badly underwrote the villain that his name is truncated throughout from Fitzgerald to Fitz, as if even affording him extra syllables was too much work to type. Everyone’s focus, including Mangold’s, was solely on the chemistry, which did, in fact, sizzle. But if everything around the sizzlers is a limp, wet noodle, it’s hard to really start a fire.

Cruise needs out of pop culture prison. Sadly, Knight and Day won’t sway the parole board. Like the actor, the film is fun, harmless and stupid, and although that used to be good enough for stars and movies alike, nobody’s buying it anymore.

Grade = C-
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