Knight and Day (2010) film review
Rick’s grade: 4 out of 10
By RICK GERSHMAN
Bear with me for a minute while I talk about dinner. Trust me, it’s relevant.
Tuesday was a busy day. I was racing around to get everything done before meeting up with my buddy Christian Toto for the Knight and Day screening in downtown Denver. (You can find Christian’s review here.)
The YMCA where I exercise is just a few blocks from the theater. I got my workout in, but I only had a few minutes to eat before the movie. So I popped into the Taco Bell down the street, got two Beefy 5-layer burritos and ate them as I walked to the theater.
Now, Taco Bell’s Beefy 5-layer burrito is a glorious thing. It’s 89 cents, which is awesome. It’s incredibly filling, which is awesome. And here’s the thing: It actually tastes pretty damn good. So even though I figured they’d be rotting in my colon until the day I die, at the time I was pretty damn happy with those two 5-layer burritos.
A few hours later, however, I was regretting those burritos. Yummy as they were at the time, they left me feeling rather sick and bloated. My cholesterol probably hiked up about 50 points, matched only by my blood pressure. All of the good work I did at the Y, destroyed in one beefy, cheesy swoop.
Which brings us to Knight and Day, the Taco Bell 5-layer burrito of the 2010 summer movie season.
Actually, the metaphor doesn’t quite hold true — the 5-layer burrito is less than a buck, whereas you’ll be paying around 10 bucks for this action comedy starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It would be a lot more palatable at 98 cents.
Like my burrito, Knight and Day tastes pretty good on the first few bites. Cruise is in full-on funny, charming mode as Roy Miller, a (possibly) rogue federal agent assigned to protect a fancy energy source and its nerdy inventor. As June Havens, a Boston classic car restorer swept into Miller’s mission, Diaz channels the winning sexy-goofy balance that served her well in the first Charlie’s Angels movie.
Though some other reviews say the starring pair lack chemistry together, I disagree. In fact, just about all of Knight and Day‘s charms come from the stars’ interplay as Roy and June cruise along from one dangerous situation to another.
And yes, “cruise along” is exactly what I mean — there’s never the slightest sense of danger in the film, which apparently is exactly what director James Mangold was going for.
If his name wasn’t there onscreen, you’d never guess Mangold helmed Knight and Day, which couldn’t be further removed from his (far superior) other credits, which include 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted.
It’s hard to know whether Mangold or Patrick O’Neill’s screenplay is to blame, but the flippant way Knight and Day handles its story — this is all just a video game, as grounded in reality as a Matrix film — wears out its welcome very quickly.
One conceit that runs through the film has Roy drugging June whenever the action gets heavy. And since June is (mostly) the audience’s proxy, that means we fade to black whenever she does. Thus, numerous scenes stop abruptly, and we never get to see the resolution. June just wakes up in a new locale. It feels like a massive cheat, perhaps intended only to lower the budget.
Cruise and Diaz’s star power is enough to overcome that problem for much of the first half, but after that the wheels come off.
Knight and Day subjects us to some of the thinnest supporting characters of any film this year — specifically, the agents heading up the charge to corral Miller. These roles have all the weight of a Sarah Palin interview. (My conservative buddy Christian won’t like that, but I hope he’ll understand.)
What’s worse is that producers cast two superb actors in these roles — Peter Sarsgaard (An Education, Flightplan) and Viola Davis (Doubt, State of Play) — and give them nothing to work with!
Also, why cast someone as recognizable as Maggie Grace (Taken, TV’s “Lost”) as June’s sister and give her nothing but a couple of lines? What a massive waste of talent! It’s a stark contrast to this summer’s The A-Team, in which a couple of supporting roles were among the film’s most interesting.
All of that considered, Knight and Day remains fairly entertaining until the final act, when the formula really gets old. Sure, there’s a cute bit where Diaz gets to have fun with June being under the influence of truth serum (yeah, she gets drugged a lot, which is a bit creepy).
But then we get the crappiest of Knight and Day‘s action pieces, a car/motorcycle chase through Spanish streets that happens to coincide with the running of the bulls. The special effects for this stretch are mind-numbingly bad, looking worse than whatever your 12-year-old nephew could throw together on his Power Mac.
The film has other issues, even if you’re grading on the “lighthearted summer fun” curve. The title only half makes sense, and the way it’s not-really explained seems arbitrary at best. Worse, the movie never provides a reason for Diaz’s character to be involved in the story past the first half-hour.
Knight and Day isn’t the complete wreck the pre-release buzz might have suggested. It has some cute dialogue, some genuinely funny moments and some entertaining fight scenes. On the whole, however, it’s a 5-layer burrito that’s missing at least three layers. And two just won’t do.
Knight and Day
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Patrick O’Neill
Stars: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Marc Blucas, Maggie Grace
Running time: 110 min.