I close on my first home next week. STRESS. All I want is to move into my new place but there is some work to be done first. Am trying to figure out how to squeeze it all into a couple of Saturdays so I can just move already. I hate moving. It’s so much work and effort, and I hate exerting myself. I always wanted to be Samantha in Bewitched so I could just twitch my nose and have my shit taken care of instantly. With the stress levels through the roof right now, I sought out my favorite form of escapism over the weekend. I went to the movies. Did I see Toy Story 3? No. For the second week in a row I went to see something I knew would be inferior (latent masochistic streak?). I saw Tom Cruise’s career Hail Mary Knight & Day.
First, let me say this is not a terrible movie. It isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible, which by and large has been the story of Summer 2010 at the movies. Not great, not awful. That said, I did not like this movie. Not because it was cheesy or because Tom Cruise is a total dork, but because everything about Knight & Day was from the Easy Way Handbook. It’s one thing for a bad movie to be bad because everything about it sucks, like Jonah Hex, which leaves you feeling like, “Well clearly this was just a bad idea” after the movie is over. It bugs me to no end when a movie has the potential to be legitimately good and instead takes the Easy Way Out and ends up merely mediocre. Knight & Day took its Movie Star pedigree for granted and did nothing to actually be a good movie, instead landing in the “merely mediocre” pile.
Things start out okay with Knight & Day. Stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz have great chemistry, and they look like they had a lot of fun working together again. Cruise is discovering a latent and surprisingly enjoyable comic ability (except as Les Grossman—that bit is old), and nobody does ditzy as well as Diaz. The premise of Knight & Day isn’t too terrible, either: A superspy who maybe is burned out, or maybe is being set up, essentially kidnaps a regular woman and takes her on his superspy adventure around the world. Okay, I’m down with that. Perfect plot for summer fluff. And the casting was solid—Peter Sarsgaard (An Education), Viola Davis (fresh off her Tony win for Fences), and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) costar. See what I mean? These are good ingredients. But then it goes off the rails.
What was wrong with Knight & Day? Let’s start with that title. It has no bearing on anything. A better one would be Good Knight, as cheesy as that is it at least ties into the theme of the movie. But Knight & Day? Means nothing. As for that cast—Dano and Davis are completely wasted. Maybe somewhere there exists a draft of the script in which their characters contribute meaningfully to the film, but to spend the money on actors of that quality and then have them do so little—it’s wasteful. And at this point, if Sarsgaard shows up in a movie playing some type of law enforcement officer, I know straightaway he’s the bad guy.
As for Cruise and Diaz, well, it’s a wash. The chemistry is there and the combined energy from their megawatt smiles is enough to power a small city indefinitely, but the story is so weak they just don’t have enough to do. Cruise acts crazy, Diaz acts ditzy, and we all go home. I don’t think either of them are the greatest actors ever, but they are certainly better than that. But everything was so predictable, it was such paint-by-numbers filmmaking—extremely disappointing given this movie was directed by James Mangold of Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma fame—that at no point was I engaged with these characters. From the very first scene I knew exactly how the story would play out. Roy (Cruise) accidentally-on-purpose bumps into June (Diaz) at the airport. June later bumps into Roy. They will fall in love. Roy and June are on the same flight with only six other passengers, all shifty looking men. Roy will beat them up. The plane crashes and Roy saves June, then warns her against the government. Roy is on the lam. Roy kidnaps June but then June decides Roy is safer than the government agents sent to protect her. They will reveal the cover up. Roy shows June a self-defense move. June will beat the shit out of a bad guy. The whole movie is like that. For each action, you know the result long before it occurs. At the point that June describes her road trip pipedream, I literally knew the EXACT ending of the movie. It’s like a plug and play script or something. Insert cliché, get result.
Finally, Knight & Day committed the greatest sin possible in film. It harkened back to a beloved classic and then shat all over that classic’s memory. Throughout the movie I was strongly reminded of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, the 1955 whodunit spy thriller with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. And not in a bad way! Knight & Day, had it abandoned its predictability and inherent laziness, could have been a neat update of To Catch a Thief. You have the attractive lead couple, the jet-set locales, the spy story—it was all there. But it was wasted. Where To Catch a Thief used the French Riviera and Monaco to create a glamorous world we want to be part of, Knight & Day didn’t spend enough time in any one of its Fabulous Locales for us to fall in love with any of them. It was like taking a Fodor’s Guide trip through Europe. And the story was too predictable and the characters too thin for an audience to really care about what becomes of Roy and June. From the first frame you know what will happen to them, where in To Catch a Thief you really wonder if Robie (Grant) is going to pull it off and have his happily ever after with Frances (Kelly). But in Knight & Day this is never in question. You know Roy will succeed because he is played by Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise never fails. Except for recently at the box office. With a budget of $117 million and opening-weekend box office of just $20 million, Knight & Day was not the triumphant return for which Cruise was hoping.