“A Knight’s Hard Day”
“Knight and Day”
Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz
Directed by James Mangold
“Knight and Day” is as entertaining as one would expect from a summer popcorn spectacle, especially one that’s specifically designed to put Tom Cruise back in the good graces of moviegoers. Despite his impressive turn as an eyepatch-wearing German officer in “Valkyrie” or his scene-stealing performance as a foul-mouthed studio head in “Tropic Thunder” (both from 2008), those didn’t exactly flaunt the trademark qualities that made him the biggest star on the planet.
So when it comes to furthering the damage control that was needed to restore luster to a once-hot career that has dimmed in recent years, “Knight and Day” is just what the doctor ordered. For the first time since 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III,” Cruise toplines a mainstream crowd pleaser in which he effortlessly displays his undeniable charms while fighting the bad guys alongside a charismatic female co-star, and he gets to show off his funny side to boot.
But if “Knight and Day” represents a return to form for Cruise, that form may fit a little too snug at times. That’s because his character is even more indestructible than the one he played in the “Mission: Impossible” movies, so one never gets the sense that he’s in any real danger — and that deflates the level of suspense. The same goes for Cameron Diaz, whose character eventually grows into one that’s close to her butt-kicking role in the “Charlie’s Angels” movies.
But as long as “Knight and Day” keeps moving — which it does at breakneck speed over the course of its 110-minute running time — it works well enough to compensate for an otherwise weak story. At its best, “Knight and Day” comes close to displaying the screwball charms of a romantic action comedy like 1984’s “Romancing the Stone,” but at its worse, it’s almost as ineffective as “Killers,” the similarly-themed recent misfire with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl.
Cameron Diaz plays June Havens, whose boring life takes an unexpected turn when she literally bumps into Roy Miller (Cruise) at an airport in Wichita. June is instantly attracted to Roy, but she soon finds out the hard way that he is a rogue secret agent at the center of a worldwide conspiracy involving an unlimited power source. June becomes Roy’s reluctant partner-in-crime in his efforts to keep it out of the wrong hands, but is Roy telling the truth, or is he completely insane?
After directing two critically acclaimed and commercially successful hits — 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” and 2007’s excellent western “3:10 to Yuma” — director James Mangold tries his hand at an action comedy, but the results are decidedly uneven. There are fight scenes galore, a plane crash in a cornfield, a car chase through Boston, a motorcycle chase through Seville and anything else that a $117 million budget can buy. But the story (written by Patrick O’Neill) is poorly plotted, while the supporting talents of Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis (as CIA agents) and Paul Dano (as a brilliant scientist) are woefully underutilized.
But the suspension of disbelief and the endearing chemistry between Cruise and Diaz — who were previously paired in 2001’s mind-trippy “Vanilla Sky” — go a long way to make “Knight and Day” more entertaining than not. Diaz is delightful, and 47-year-old Cruise miraculously doesn’t appear to have aged a day since Renee Zellweger first completed him in 1996’s “Jerry Maguire.”
“Knight and Day” shows Cruise literally and figuratively firing on all cylinders, and moviegoers will be reminded of why they rushed out to see his movies in the first place. At least, that’s what the filmmakers are counting on. The movie itself may be a mixed bag, but the action scenes deliver the goods, and it’s a step in the right direction for Cruise to once again shine as the biggest star on the planet.
Verdict: SEE IT!