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Movie Review: Knight and Day

June 23, 2010

Ladies, I have a question:  let’s say you meet a man on a plane – you talk a little, like close-quarters travelers are wont to do - and after a quick trip to the WC you emerge to find that he has murdered everyone on the plane – and is preparing for a crash-landing.  This man drugs you (repeatedly), breaks into your home, stalks you, shoots your ex-boyfriend and while these events take place you witness him effortlessly murder additional people.  Take a minute to process this.  Now, after all this has happened, would you get into a car with him and go on a road trip?  I don’t think you would (though I don’t know your life), and I would sooner set my hair on fire and go for a pants-less jog down Main street than get in that effing car myself.  That said, I don’t go to see summer action/adventure movies to watch someone behave sensibly – I go for the escapism and to experience things vicariously through my proxy - so I didn’t protest when June Havens (Cameron Diaz) throws caution to the wind and decides to join Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) on his global adventure in Knight and Day.

Roy Miller (a top-secret government agent of some sort who may or may not have gone rogue and who may or may not be batshit poopers) is being surveyed and pursued by his former employers.  While layed over in a Wichita airport he bumps into June Haven (a vintage auto mechanic and tequila enthusiast who is prone to panicking and screaming – because she’s a girl!) who in a classic case of Wrong Place, Wrong Time is mistakenly believed to be an accomplice to Roy after they become acquainted.  They board a plane together and make some flirty small-talk about this and that until the series of events that I described in the first paragraph transpire.  Roy makes it look like the plane crashed and killed everyone on board and delivers a narcotized, unconscious June to her home – tucks her into bed, makes her breakfast and leaves notes of warning (Don’t talk to anyone…, Don’t get into cars with anyone.., It was nice to meet you – those kinds of notes)  around her house, like you do.  It’s creepy –  not my idea of a great first date – I would be more inclined to seek out a restraining order post haste - but June is won over by Roy’s Stockholm Syndrome Omelette and goes about her day as planned without mentioning her strange trip home to anyone.  While at a dress fitting for her sister’s wedding, June is taken into custody by some government types (as Roy warned her that she would be) and - just as she begins to fear for her life in their company – Roy turns up to help bust her loose, instigating a humorous and deadly car chase.  June, suffering from shock, makes a run for it to flee both The Suits and Roy and turns to her fire-fighter ex-boyfriend for aid.   It doesn’t take long for Roy to find June again and take her as a hostage (for her protection, he claims) shooting her ex in the leg in the process and fleeing from his former employers.

June, now fully immersed in the imbroglio, decides to trust Roy and join him on the lam – running from the CIA, FBI, international arms dealers and (if Roy is to be believed) a crooked government agent, Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard).  Roy is in possession of something valuable that the aforementioned pursuers want for themselves and he drags June (literally drags her, incidentally, as she is often drugged – by Roy - and unconscious) along with him as he flees from one exotic locale to the next.  It’s a premise that, while familiar (The Bourne Identity, or any Bond film and to a lesser extent – Mr. and Mrs. Smith), still has loads of potential and Knight and Day occasionally reaches it, though not often enough.  Tom Cruise displays an awkward sort of flair for comedy that plays well with the stunt gags, many of which were fun to watch.  In fact here’s the trailer – you can see it there, Tom being repellent and certifiable and that is just how I like him – he does it well.  I almost think I would have enjoyed the movie more if they had kept this up, Roy in nutbar-mode relentlessly following June; June desperately trying to get away from Roy and leaving carnage in their wake – FUN!

But of course, the movie went in the romantic direction and that is where I think they may have erred in casting.  As a buddy flick, Knight and Day works a bit better namely because the lead actors lack any potent sexual chemistry with one another – which isn’t to say they don’t have good chemistry, they do - it just seems more like the friendship variety.  I found myself thinking of other actors who would have been more convincing as lovers (Nathan Fillion and Keri Russell came to mind, they have both done action and comedy and showed HOTNESS together in Waitress) because sadly – Roy and June just don’t ever seem like they want to make the Beast With Two Backs with each other.  At one point, while under the influence of a truth serum drug (for once NOT given to her by Roy) June pantomimes being hot and bothered by visably panting and breathlessly states, “Roy, I think I feel like having sex…don’t you think we would have GREAT sex together?”  And…I don’t believe they would.  (In fact, during this scene I immediately visualized them having the most hilariously awkward, unfortunate-looking sex ever to grace the screen and I lamented that it would not be so.  Maybe if there is a sequel they’ll get around to it).

The other main complaint I have about this film is with June’s character development.  June spends the first half of the film shrieking and (understandably) freaking out while occasionally performing a live-saving task by accidental dumb-luck.  It’s contrived and played for laughs, but honestly it’s a lot more plausible than the complete 180 her character makes for the second half of the film.  When June finally awakens from a drug-induced stupor to find that Roy has squired her off to his private island AND dressed her in a bikini, she goes apeshit with anger and attacks Roy.  I actually kind of liked this, because while she was no match for a trained assassin, she displayed that she was capable of defending herself in a fight.  Roy physically overpowers her, but teaches her a self-defense move that frees her from his grasp – it could have been really condescending, but it played like earnest respect.  Unfortunately, after this minor crash course in combat, June suddenly becomes as capable as Roy – showing heretofore unseen skills as a driver, fighter, escape artist and gun-slinger - all parlayed into a long-running Call Back that just lost me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than watching a formidable heroine kick ass and take names (The Bride in Kill Bill is one, and I shamelessly enjoy the Resident Evil films for this very reason.) but June practically morphs into Roy overnight and her un-earned change of character really bothered me.  June’s easy acquisition of competence and skills rob her of any transformative growth – and the viewer of any reason to be concerned for her.

I think what ultimately hurts Knight and Day the most is that it suffers from formulaic dullness towards the end.  The movie does have moments of fun that are weighted heavily in the first half, but once June becomes as confident and lethal as Roy, the audience isn’t given any reason to worry or care for either of their safety.  Roy and June’s non-existent sexual tension parallel perfectly with the lack of concern I felt while watching them negotiate with various badguys and life-threatening scenarios – with nothing at stake to lose, it’s hard to get caught up in the moment and go with it.

Knight and Day (directed by James Mangold) opens this Friday.   2.5/5

this seems vaguely familiar

Pssssssssst!  {Now this right here is just me being petty.  I happen to love the motorbike scene in Tomorrow Never Dies, so I felt righteously indignant when I read somewhere that Tom Cruise was the mastermind behind the motorcycle stunt in which Cameron Diaz straddles his lap and provides cover while they race through the streets of Seville.  I think it worked better in the Bond movie too, Michelle Yeoh and Pierce Brosnan are hand-cuffed together so the high-speed, Kama Sutra, motorbike chase actually makes more sense. 

I think the stunt in K&D was a squandered opportunity for comedy (they were clearly going for SEXY and there is nothing as un-sexy as an overt bid for SEXY), plus it could have been a great way to reinforce June’s talent with motorized vehicles.  What better way to demonstrate June’s mechanical skills by allowing her to drive the motorcycle, with Roy on her lap instead?  Better.}


One Response to “ Movie Review: Knight and Day ”

  1. Grace on June 25, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hilarious opening sentence and totally agree with you on Tomorrow Never Dies. My favorite female Asian action star + Remington Steele is a combo that can never be repeated and should never be imitated.