The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Knight and Day

Team one of the biggest name actors around and one of the most popular actresses around and let the fireworks fly, right? That's basically the thought behind 2010's Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. On-screen chemistry can only carry a movie so far though as seen in this predictable but still entertaining tongue in cheek (kinda) spy thriller.

Boarding a flight to get back to Boston in time for her sister's wedding, June Havens (Diaz) bumps into Roy Miller (Cruise) several times and starts up a casual conversation with this mysterious man. She goes to the washroom only to step back into a bizarre situation. The pilots are dead, and Roy's taking credit. He lands the plane in a cornfield and begs June to believe him. He's a secret agent, and some very bad guys, including Agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), are coming after him. Roy seems very capable of handling himself, but now June is an unwilling passenger on the ride, globe-trotting with possibly corrupt agents, killers and arms dealers in pursuit. Could Roy be telling the truth, and what's he holding out?

Part spy thriller, part romantic comedy, this James Mangold-directed movie is an odd one. It's harmless enough, not trying to be anything other than a twisting, turning, action-packed popcorn movie. It starts off at a breakneck speed and doesn't show signs of slowing down...and then it does. 'Knight' lands with a wallop, not able to keep up that early momentum. The early portions are both truly funny and smartly written, keeping you guessing as to what's happening. Cruise's Roy is clearly up to something, but what? He dispatches about 100 henchmen in the first 30 minutes, including one nicely handled sequence on an airplane at 30,000 where he's 1-against-6. You think you're in a for a real winner when the rug gets pulled out from under you.

It's not that the next 80 minutes are necessarily bad. You just feel like you've seen them before. Diaz' June is a regular woman (albeit a ridiculously gorgeous regular woman) who in the matter of days basically learns how to be a spy just by being around Roy. Diaz does a fine job as the audience's window into the story, showing her extreme confusion and anger -- but mostly confusion -- at being dropped into this hellish secret agent war. It's never long between action scenes (Austria, France, Spain, all over really) that end up being repetitious by the end. The finale -- a car/motorcycle chase coinciding with the Running of the Bulls -- is solid, but it relies too heavily on CGI. The twists and turns are foreshadowed miles in advance, and there's just something missing. Fun most of the time, but lacking that special something to take it to another level.

Still in a Tom Cruise frame of mind after watching 'Ghost Protocol,' I thought he was the best thing about 'Knight.' He plays the straight man to Diaz, giving these perfect one-liners as he calmly navigates their "situation." His Roy is getting shot at, attacked, stabbed, blown up, and he manages to compliment June's dress. Cruise is a great action actor, and he gets his chances to show it, but he's so believable in buying into and committing to his part that you just go along with it. A fair share of reviewers didn't care for the chemistry between Cruise and Diaz, but I thought they were a great pair. It's the action scenes late and those where the two are separated where the movie struggles. Put them together, and it is a much better movie. Snappy, quick dialogue keeps things going. I only wish there was more of that and less of the pyrotechnics.

Other parts worth mentioning are Sarsgaard as Agent Fitzgerald, a bad guy from the start because he's played by Peter Sarsgaard. Come on, were we supposed to be surprised by that? Jordi Molla is good in a small part as Quintana, a European arms dealer after something valuable in Roy's possession and willing to do whatever it takes to get it (big ole' MacGuffin subplot there). Paul Dano plays Simon, a brilliant high school student involved in the chase while Marc Blucas makes the most of a quick appearance as June's ex-fiance.

I didn't love this movie, and I didn't hate it. Instead, it falls somewhere in between in that dreaded middle ground. I probably won't be revisiting it anytime soon because one viewing is enough. Tom Cruise is one of the few remaining movie stars, and it's always good to see him in a fun, action-packed story. He makes the most of a movie that doesn't bring anything new to the table, relying on its stars in Cruise and Diaz to do the heavy lifting.

Knight and Day <---trailer (2010): ** 1/2 /****

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