Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Knight and Day"

Every once in a while I feel I have to start out these little reviews with a confession. Maybe this happens more than it should but that’s beside the point. Today is no different as I must confess to you, dear reader(s), my affinity for Tom Cruise movies. I really like Tom Cruise’s movies. Not Tom Cruise the person, you understand. That guy is clearly as street rat crazy as they come. No, I’ve no interest in Tom Cruise the Human. But Tom Cruise the Actor…that’s a different story. Say what you want about Cruise but his movies almost never fail to entertain me and he truly invests in his roles, something you definitely can’t say about every actor. He’s brought so much entertainment to me that I find myself rooting for the crazy dude and hoping for a comeback. Needless to say, I really wanted “Knight and Day” to be good.

“Knight and Day” centers on international superspy Roy Miller (Cruise) and his exploits involving civilian mechanic June Havens (Cameron Diaz). Miller has gone rogue from the CIA and is in possession of a super secret, super valuable piece of technology. When Miller’s attempt to use June as a mule backfires, he ends up crash landing their plane in a cornfield. June wakes up at home in her bed with instructions to deny any knowledge of Roy Miller. When she disobeys this request, however, Miller jumps back into her life to save her from the CIA spooks (led by Peter Sarsgaard) who’ve been on his trail and who will, assumedly, kill June to keep her quiet. What follows is a fast paced journey around the world as Miller and June stay one step ahead of the CIA and other would-be assassins.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? Tom Cruise is back, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve seen a few critics throw out some negative reactions to him here but I honestly can’t understand it. Perhaps the professionals are tired of Cruise’s antics or perhaps I just see the movie world through rose-tinted, “Top Gun”-esque Aviator glasses. Whatever the case may be, I thought Cruise brought his A-game to this role. He works well in the action sequences while at the same time bringing a touch of witty humor to the character. Miller is a hardened spy but he’s also somewhat naive as to the ways of the civilian world, especially concerning June. At the same time, he is extremely loyal and determined, going way out of his way to help June out of the pickles she routinely puts herself in (more on this later) and returning her to safety time and time again. Cruise breathes a bit of life into a character that could have easily fallen flat with a lesser actor manning the role. In essence, I think he did the most with what he had to work with. In addition to Cruise, the action is solid throughout and director James Mangold keeps the thing moving. Never does he allow the movie’s momentum to die down, which is important given the rockiness of the script.

Now for the bad. This script is, at best, poorly developed. Somewhere in there is a fun, entertaining story that is begging to pop out. This story, however, is often overshadowed by the clichés and general lack of originality that runs rampant throughout the film. Using a blurry blackout scene to cover up a plot hole can work once but when you routinely return to this crutch, the bit gets old fast. Peter Sarsgaard’s potential villain is as cookie-cutter as they come and the dialogue at times just feels unbalanced. It’s as if the screenwriter (newcomer Patrick O’neill) isn’t sure whether he’s writing for comedy or action and can’t make the two work together.

The biggest issue, though, is the absolute and complete worthlessness of June Havens. You know what sucks the life out of an action movie faster than anything else? A worthless, annoying, and helpless female lead. For two hours June Havens does nothing but the opposite of what a normal human with the thinking capacity of a retarded chimpanzee would do. She makes unsecured phone calls when she knows she’s being traced, she screams at inopportune times, and she even fires approximately 60 rounds from a sub-machine gun “on accident.” Basically, whatever Roy Miller (a trained CIA agent and former Army Ranger who specializes in surviving in tight situations, mind you) says she should do, June immediately does the opposite. If this is the only way you can create drama within your script then your script sucks, no if ands or buts.

Sadly this is the standard operating procedure for a lot of action movies. Something, whether it’s research or tradition, says they have to have a female lead or a damsel-in-distress and so a cardboard-thin character is drawn up and handed out to a pretty face. Whenever I see a movie like this I can only think one thing: shoot the girl. Just once I want to see Roy Miller, Jason Bourne, James Bond, or whoever else say to themselves, “Nothing is worth this ridiculousness” and just end it. Maybe that’s too dark or callous but if Hollywood can’t create a female character worth watching then what’s the point of her being on screen? Most of the best action movies involve either: a.) a solo adventurer with no baggage (Jason Bourne); b.) a pair of buddies working together as a well-oiled machine (Riggs and Murtaugh); or c.) a solo adventurer working to save his woman/family without dragging her along through all the craziness (John McClane). I’m not saying the damsel-in-distress can’t work, I’m just saying that right now Hollywood isn’t smart enough to make it work so let’s just let that ship sail, alright?

*End rant* All together, “Knight and Day” is a mildly enjoyable action flick, but one that won’t be remembered. The plot holes and shallow, poorly constructed characters take too much away for this to be considered anything beyond average. It’s the type of film that most people will completely forget about until TNT picks up the cable rights and it gets played a dozen times every weekend. If nothing else, however, it reminded me of all the great movies Tom Cruise has given me and provided an excuse to blare “Danger Zone” from my iPod as I zoomed away on my motorcycle.

Grade: B

I’m kidding about that last part,

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