Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Several times in the course of Knight and Day, hero Tom Cruise drugs heroine Cameron Diaz or otherwise causes her to lose consciousness.

This happens when the two of them are in a crisis, with the bad guys closing in & the chances of escape unpromising. Then Cameron will black out, & wake to find herself tucked comfortably in her own bed, or maybe in a hammock on a tropical island, Tom having gotten them out of the jam while she was out cold.

How I wished, watching Knight and Day, that somebody would have performed this service for me--just slipped something into my Dr. Pepper to conk me out, & let me wake up refreshed with the end credits of this tedious picture rolling. I would have been perfectly prepared to believe, sight unseen, that Tom & Cameron somehow successfully eluded all the peril and ended up living happily ever after.

Diaz plays June, who meets a fellow called Roy (Cruise) on a flight from Wichita to Boston. She’s attracted to him, but soon realizes that he’s some kind of super-spy government assassin type, that other super-spies are trying to kill him because he has possession of a valuable MacGuffin (a super-battery, not that it matters), & that she’s been caught up in the deadly intrigue.

Wild chases & shootouts through Beantown ensue, followed by wild chases & shootouts in other, more exotic locales. The guiding joke of the action is that while he’s dealing effortlessly with all sorts of violent chaos, Roy keeps calmly dispensing encouragement, reassurance & compliments to June the whole time.

Presumably the theory behind this film--& perhaps also the current Killers, a similarly-premised picture featuring another high-powered Hollywood blond, Katherine Heigl--is that equal parts action thriller & romantic comedy stand to command both the chick-flick & the testosterone audience. It’s not a bad notion, either, but for it to work it would require that it be funny, romantic & exciting. The director, James Mangold, has made some strong pictures in the past, notably Cop Land, but his work here is generic. The abundant & interminable action sequences have neither slapstick panache nor any convincing sense of threat.

For me, there was no romance, either. Since there is scarcely a scene in Knight and Day that doesn’t feel derived from such earlier & better movies as North by Northwest & Silver StreakFoul Play, and since the supporting cast, which features the gifted likes of Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Marc Blucas & Paul Dano, gets almost nothing to do, the whole project inevitably depends on, to resort to a miserably overused word, chemistry between Diaz & Cruise. But I didn’t care whether the two of them ended up together, nor did I feel any strong sense that they cared.

Let me be clear: I’m not what the kids would call a “hater.” It seems clear from his public antics in recent years that Cruise is a wackjob of some sort, but I don’t see how this takes away from the very enjoyable performances he’s given, in Rain Man, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire & War of the Worlds, anything that lets him play manic & out of his depth. I’ve never found anything particularly objectionable about Diaz, either.

Neither star shines individually here, though. June is supposed to be a frightened-yet-plucky heroine a la Goldie Hawn in Foul Play, but Diaz compares unfavorably to Hawn. As for Cruise, his super-competent, unflappable persona here seems to be intended as a comic version of his action hero role in the Mission Impossible movies. But there are those of us who found the idea of dweeby little Tom Cruise as an action star a laugh riot to begin with. The joke gets no funnier when it’s intentional.

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