By Brian Lafferty
June 24, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- Knight and Day was a movie that gave me fits. That’s something I did not expect from a movie starring either Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz. These two stars are reunited for the first time since Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky in 2001. That movie, while not their best, was at least interesting, thought-provoking, well-acted, and most of all, not the least bit boring. The same cannot be said for Knight and Day, which tries to be like James Cameron’s 1994 action flick True Lies but winds up only paling in comparison.
I knew the movie was in trouble after the first reel. I had no idea what the film was about for most of the first half. As it wore on, I somewhat discerned that Cruise was a rogue agent. There was something about a perpetual energy source in the form of a battery. I think Cruise stole it. He and Diaz are pursued literally all over the world by those who want this energy source.
Knight and Day tries to mix romance, comedy, and action but it only results in a lack of a consistent tone. One scene can be light-hearted and the next can be serious, with characters placed in peril. Even individual scenes are completely tone deaf.
Take, for example, the sequence in the diner. Diaz is talking with her former boyfriend when Cruise comes in. He takes her hostage. We then get incredibly tasteless dialogue in which he threatens to kill her and then himself. He then demands that everyone in the diner get pie. Despite being warned to stay in the diner, the boyfriend follows them outside the diner and Cruise shoots him in the leg. “He should have stayed in the booth,” Cruise explains in an attempt to be funny. Awful.
Cruise chooses the wrong approach in his role by playing it cool. He’s light-hearted and tries to be funny but he didn’t get one laugh out of me. His timing is constantly off. Diaz, on the other hand, plays her role seriously. She’s constantly scared, unsure of herself, and in no mood for levity. Her staid performance makes it hard to laugh, especially when she finds herself placed in action scenes too intense to take lightly.
If there was one thing that annoyed me more than the choice of performances and the unbalanced tone it was the attempts at humor. The filmmakers attempt to take the edge off the violence by injecting humor. It not only doesn’t work but it is downright irritating. I am not against this practice. Kick-Ass contained more than one softened bloodbath. But Kick-Ass was a gleeful movie and by softening the violence with a variety of rock and light music, it made the scenes fit within the film’s overall jovial tone.
But Knight and Day has no reason to do this. The attempts to take the edge off with humor are inappropriate, flat, and irritating. The amount of violence and the intensity of these scenes do not call for them. They are too edgy for us to laugh at. Even if Knight and Day left out the comedy, it would still be a standard action picture. We get the usual car chases, including one through Spain replete with CGI bulls. Nothing exciting happens and the last half hour is surprisingly boring.
There is no easy way to approach this picture. I tried not to take it seriously but it didn’t work. I tried to take it seriously and that didn’t work, either. By the middle of the movie I just gave up and just watched it the best I could.