Knight and Day
1 out of 4 stars
During its U.S. opening weekend, ‘Knight and Day’ barely made $20 million at the box office, the lowest figure for a Tom Cruise action movie in over twenty years. After watching the film, it’s easy to see why. A complete and utter failure from start to finish, ‘Knight and Day’ disappoints in almost every way possible, from its nonsensical storyline to its farcical acting to its ridiculous stunts. Even with its hefty star power, ‘Knight and Day’ is undeniably 2010’s worst action movie so far.
The plot, to the extent that there is one, revolves around the whirlwind romance between ordinary girl June Havens (Cameron Diaz) and a mysterious stranger, Roy Miller (Tom Cruise). The only problem’s that Roy’s actually a rogue spy on the run, and a rather deadly one at that. In fact, he’s so deadly that during their first meeting on an airplane, he kills everyone on board and then crash lands the plane without so much as a second’s hesitation. To further complicate matters, Roy holds in his possession a dangerous energy-harnessing device known as the Zephyr, coveted by both the FBI and the country’s most dangerous crime lords. With their lives at risk, Roy and June are forced to enter a game of cat and mouse with their pursuers, gradually warming up to each other’s company in the process.
Although the plot outline above and the movie’s trailer are mildly interesting, the movie itself is anything but. After the initial set-up, the movie barely develops its premise at all, aimlessly wandering from one action scene to the next with little creativity or wit. Even the Zephyr, the mysterious device which holds together the film’s plot, is never fully explained by the screenwriters. How does it work? What use could terrorists potentially put it to? How did an agent like Roy manage to steal such a valuable, heavily guarded object?
Similarly, the characters’ backgrounds and motivations are also left woefully untouched. By the end of the film, the viewer still knows nothing about Cruise and Diaz’s characters other than their fondness for bad pick-up lines, overblown car chases, and each other. Secondary characters such as the FBI agents and mobsters fare even worse, and are totally deprived of their personalities altogether.
After the lack of an identifiable story, the move’s next misstep is its wildly inconsistent tone. In one scene which typifies the whole film, Roy is seen playfully flirting with a bikini-clad Diaz on a beach, when suddenly a battalion of army helicopters randomly appears from nowhere and starts raining down rockets and machine gun fire on the two heroes. Although scenes such as these have the potential to be both thrilling and humorous, such as in the hit ‘Rush Hour’ series, director James Mangold transitions almost always feel forced, resulting in an awkward and unexciting muddle of comedy, action and romance.
And now for the big question: how do Cruise and Diaz perform? Unfortunately, Diaz’s sex appeal aside, the two stars also fail to add value to the project. While Cruise’s Roy Miller is both likeable and funny initially, he quickly becomes stale and repetitive due to his character’s total lack of development or growth throughout the story. Cameron Diaz’s June suffers from a similar problem, and has little to do through most of the film other than pouting her lips or screaming at the top of her lungs. As for the supporting cast, their roles are so one-dimensional and limited that they barely deserve a mention – character actors Peter Sarsgaard and Paul Dano play a corrupt cop pursuing Roy and a nerdy scientist responsible for designing the Zephyr respectively.
Finally, the film’s action set pieces are so cartoonish that they seem more suited to ‘Austin Powers’ than a big-budget Tom Cruise picture. Some of the sequences in question include an airplane crash landing on the ground only to remain completely intact, a motorbike successfully outrunning a pack of charging bulls at the last second, and worse of all, Cruise jumping off a 10 metre tall bridge onto the pavement, only to continue walking without a single visible sign of pain. Not since the Batmobile drove up walls in the disastrous ‘Batman Forever’ has an action film been so blatantly disrespectful to the audience’s intellect and common sense.
Despite 20th Century Fox’s attempts to market ‘Knight and Day’ as a comeback for Cruise, the film is clearly another nail in the coffin for the ailing star. Although the film’s flaws are too numerous to count, its complete lack of an engaging story is perhaps the most damning: for all of its hi-tech explosions and chases, ‘Knight and Day’ is even hollower at heart than vapid blockbusters such as ‘2012’ or ‘Transformers’. Hopefully, Cruise will grow old gracefully and pick a less embarrassing project for his next role.