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Knight And Day Is Simply Forgettable

Knight and Day
Directed by James Mangold
Written by Patrick O’Neill
Fox, 2010

I think 2010 is officially the year that I became completely aware of the overall bullshit nature of, well, almost anything.  It took a little more than a decade, but we’re slowly coming to realize that great feats of sporting dominance usually involve cheating (drug use, recruiting violations), companies that perform miracles in finance are likely swindling the public and covering it up, and when actors go jump on a couch on Oprah and preach Scientology and become a less bankable star, their publicity machine will go into hyperdrive to erase the memory.

This will not be a review of Tom Cruise and his personal life or anything I might think about it.  I like Tom Cruise and most of the movies I’ve seen him in.  I want him to succeed.  But I just got that horrible whiff of “I can be a normal guy too” once all the controversy surrounding his appearances in the mid-zeroes suddenly got him attached to all these comedies instead of his usual action fare.  The Hardy Men, the updating of The Hardy Boys with Ben Stiller, came up first (and is now slated for 2013 as of this writing).  Then he showed up as uber-asshole producer Les Grossman in Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, and true enough, the guy was funny as hell in that.  He made the rounds as Grossman in the latest MTV Movie Awards, and mentioned a spinoff was in the works.  And now there’s Knight and Day, a breezy action romantic comedy that Cruise probably wouldn’t have touched 5 years ago.  It immediately called to mind the Harrison Ford vehicle Six Days, Seven Nights.

Remember that?  Ford was on a pretty good run there, then this hellacious bomb got dropped in the Summer of 1998, roughly the same time as Knight and Day is opening this year.  Ford really hasn’t been the same since, with What Lies Beneath registering as his biggest hit until the Indiana Jones sequel finally gave him a taste of that blockbuster status again, albeit shamefully.  Cruise hasn’t quite fallen off like Ford, although Lions For Lambs certainly was a low point, but his last major vehicle Valkyrie did surprisingly good business in spite of many calling it a failure.  But it looks like Cruise wants to do lots of comedies and make appearances being funny…and sorry, I just don’t buy it.  I may laugh, I may welcome the funny Cruise, but underneath it all I see the image machine trying to atone for the tarnishing he gave it.

In Knight and Day, Cruise plays secret agent Roy Miller, who the agency says has gone rogue.  Miller bumps into hot car chick June Havens (Cameron Diaz, making this a Vanilla Sky reunion) at an airport, for reasons we will understand later, but for now the two look like they’ll be eternal romantic partners, getting along on the flight that has very few people on it, all of them bad apparently.  They’re all agency guys wanting to kill Miller and find this battery that is like a perpetual source of energy.  But I guess this is ignorance, as Homer Simpson once remarked, “In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!”

The agency is headed by Director George (Viola Davis) who has one of her best men out there, Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) out there to catch him, and of course he’s corrupt.  There’s also an arms dealer named Antonio (Jordi Molla) who wants the battery.  And the man who made the battery, Simon Feck (Paul Dano), well, his life is in danger.  All the while, Roy ends up escorting June around the world to different locales, avoiding death, and appropriating wisecracks.

The movie does know it’s ridiculous, which saves this from being completely unwatchable.  The action scenes are way over-the-top, more impossible than the stuff in Cruise’s own Mission: Impossible series.  Watch with either laughter or leave-the-theatre-style disbelief as Cruise falls off a motorcycle, onto a speeding car that is swerving into oncoming traffic, falls off a bridge onto another car, and back onto the original car without dying or getting hurt.  It’s unfortunate when we can’t actually believe the guy could do even one of those things, and it becomes kind of boring when it comes right down to it.  When you know there are no stakes involved in a high-speed, debris-raining action sequence, basically there’s no tension and no fun.

But sure, they know it’s garbage, and Cruise finds a way to be charming, so it seems like an OK flick for awhile.  It really loses all of its marbles in the third act, where it just becomes a chore to watch.  Ultimately, this movie will show up on some cable channel one day and I’ll have forgotten about half of it.  And most of you will, too.

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