I have to admit these kind of movies kind of annoy me. The whole mock spy story has been played over and over again, until now record has warped and melted to the turntable, the remnant spinning pointlessly on its axis while a producer bathes in a pool of money in the other room.
Directed by: James Mangold
Staring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz
I’m bored with the whole genre. Add in Peter Sarsgaard slumming and a romance plot with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (because “Vanilla Sky” was such a great movie!) and I’m ready to give this whole enterprise the red card. For God’s sake another mock spy movie was just released last month!
But I must judge each overplayed storyline according to its own merits, and much to my surprise “Knight and Day”, about a woman who accidentally falls in with an international spy, has some pretty delightful, and even outright hilarious moments.
The plot involves Roy Miller, a spy who meets June Havers, who’s on her way home to Boston to go to her sister’s wedding. He’s been protecting a young scientist (a sweet, mustachioed Paul Dano) who’s being hunted for his newest invention. Roy’s partner (Peter Sarsgaard, doing his very best sleazy Southern accent) has gone rogue and is attempting to steal the boy’s invention and sell it on the black market.
Cruise especially seems to have a gotten a second wind as a comedic actor, since his truly inspired role in “Tropic Thunder”. Instead of smooth entrances and coy double entendres Roy’s character relies on simple good-guy charm to seduce us. At one point he lands sprawling on top of a car containing June that’s speeding through a tunnel and being shot at. But instead of a great action line a la James Bond, he simply looks up and brightly says, “Hey June! Open the door for me?”
Unfortunately then there’s Diaz, who’s just a hot mess if there ever was one. Due to what I can only guess is some brutal Botoxing, Diaz’s face looks haggard and unhappy. Watching her trip over things adorably and scrunch up her nose while she prattles her lines manically is not cute anymore; it’s undignified. Diaz can be a serviceable actress when she’s allowed to be, but director James Mongold has committed the usual sin of relegating her to the tough/vulnerable hot chick who just needs a man.
That said there is a pretty kickass scene where she’s outrunning bad guys in a GTO.
Mangold has a spotty record: he’s directed both “Girl, Interrupted” and “Walk the Line,” but also the snoozer epic “Kate and Leopold.” “Knight and Day” falls somewhere in the middle. The action scenes are expertly choreographed and the music is truly wonderful (a Latin-infused medley by John Powell). But Mangold cuts a lot of corners and leaves a lot of holes to be filled in. In a film named “Knight and Day,” would it kill you to name the female protagonist June Day? (Miller’s real name is Knight, so at least that makes a little sense.) June’s sturdy firefighter ex-boyfriend Rodney (Mike Blucas) is introduced and then dropped about two scenes later, never to be heard from again, along with June’s sister. He has an inspired scene involving an action montage viewed through a drug-induced haze, but then lapses into the cliched romantic play fight/sexual tension scene.
It has a satisfying ending, centering on that fabulous GTO, and that counts for a lot. But so much of the middle grazes the surface of parody without actually taking a dive. The jokes just aren’t funny enough. “Knight and Day,” was a surprise, but it’s not enough of one to pay $10 at the cineplex. Wait for it on DVD. It’s charms will still be fully visible.