Once it is established in “Knight and Day” that Tom Cruise is a super-spy who can kill 20 bad guys with one gun and safely land a jet airliner in the middle of a field while his unlikely girl-next-door partner (Cameron Diaz) can’t do anything but faint or get in the way, the joke gets a little old.
In an effort to take it to its farthest extreme, screenwriter Patrick O’Neill has Cruise inject Diaz with something that makes her sleep for hours while he carries her in and out of extremely dangerous situations. The joke that results from this (and is also funny once) features a camera from Diaz’s point of view that fades in and out of ‘consciousness’ during particularly stressful moments—such as a freefall from an airplane.
Unfortunately, the plot and pacing of this frantic action comedy are as incoherent as Diaz is when Cruise gives her the silly juice.
“Knight and Day” is about as light and fluffy as summer action movies get. It’s also as relentless and desperate to entertain as we always hope the worst summer movies won’t be.
It starts in an airport in Wichita, KS. Innocent bystander Cameron Diaz is suddenly swept up in an absurd whirlwind of bullets, car chases, and high-flying stunts when secret agent Tom Cruise enters her life quite unexpectedly. Like any romantic comedy worth its weight in gags, it ends up going all over the world.
(Cheers to the production for traveling to France, Spain, and a South Pacific island to get some beautiful footage. Jeers to the special effects crew for using all sorts of CGI during so many stunt sequences—they take us right out of the chase. Just check out Photoshop techniques on display in the shot above of Diaz and Cruise racing away from the running of the bulls!)
Why Cruise chooses Diaz, why the bad guys choose to attack when they do, why he says she needs to stay with him, and why she actually does are all questions that don’t really have solid answers.
In fact, director James Mangold (“3:10 To Yuma,” “Walk the Line”) makes it clear that those questions aren’t important. In a movie with this much convenient resolution, you are supposed to just loosen up and go with the flow—which would be easier to do if the stars and script were up to the task.
Cruise is in full charm mode, working overtime to appear like he is one step ahead of all his enemies while he looks out for his new love interest. At 47, though, he’s starting to finally show his age and the witty wannabe banter seems a little forced; a little too much like hard work—when it should feel effortless.
Diaz gels with Cruise romantically just fine for a script that demands nothing more tangible to convince us of romance other than a kiss, but something is off between the two of them when it comes to comic timing. They walk all over each other in certain instances (maybe the result of some improvisation to punch up the dull screenplay?), while some scenes just implode from obviousness.
The elaborate gags get bigger in scope as the film progresses but Cruise’s calm demeanor in the face of certain death is a another joke that gets old after the first two or three times.
As the story deepens and starts to take itself more seriously, the characters begin to develop more consistency, but by then it’s hard to care about anything that happens. “Knight and Day” wants to entertain you sooooooo badly with its clinically designed action-comedy scenes, but sometimes it barely has a pulse.