With The Bounty Hunter and Killers safely behind us it is now time for the rom-com/mindless action blow out main event as New Regency and Dune Entertainment have ponied up for both Tom Cruise and mass amounts of CGI to bring you Knight and Day. And while in this case their gigantic budget ($125 million or, if you prefer, Michael Bay’s 2009 earnings) probably did help in some ways it also, along with a taxing script, ends up sabotaging the whole production. Cruise apparently came cheap (a mere $11 million) but is at his absolute best here, and there is a sense of escapism that slips in occasionally, so it is not without its charms. To appreciate them, however, you have to get past some tiresome clichés (the image of birds scattering to signify a gunshot) and an obsession by the screenwriter Patrick O’Neill to reference his own movie over and over again.

It is made clear from the get go that we are there to watch the movie stars (Cruise and Cameron Diaz) and not their characters (Roy and June), who are given zero depth or back story. Instead they bump into each other, make eyes, board a plane together and start sucking each other’s face. It’s as gross as it sounds and you’ll wish for nothing more than for them to go away. Soon the plane crashes but they survive (sorry). From there Roy drags June around, usually with the help of drugs, as he hop-scotches around the globe protecting some super important energy source that will change the future of mankind. Often times that job includes gunning down armies of CIA agents.

They have no trouble keeping hot on his trail though because they seem to have multiple camera angles inside every shithole diner in America. The action is relentless and looks great but the act of creating a wholly CGI’d car chase feels bloodless and really shouldn’t impress anybody. The implicit romance doesn’t earn the emotion that it hopes to evoke and will only appeal to readers of Us Weekly. Diaz is serviceable as the heart and soul of the story though she is impossible to root for because the character she is trying to woo, Roy, is an absolute nothing; robotically perfect at his job, superficially pleasing, and emptier than Sinbad’s bank account underneath it all.

Deep thinkers might find Knight and Day to be an allegory on the emotionally unavailable alpha males and the women who can’t help but drape themselves all over them. Whether Roy’s motives are pure or otherwise June spends huge chunks of time positioning herself as a romantic option for him when all evidence points to him being dead on the inside. It makes no difference to her though as she goes about acting like a needy girlfriend; she gets jealous, stalks him across town and eventually comes to discover an ugly truth about him. There’s also a groan inducing scene in which her panic attack causes her to spray automatic gunshots all over a warehouse.

The humor fails to show through but the message is obvious: women are overly emotional beings and their slavery to their feelings only serves to block male achievement. Cruise is probably closer to home than usual with this character and he takes full advantage of that. Not since Magnolia has he been able to cut loose like this and the end result is him swallowing the movie whole by appearing to be larger, louder and more bombastic than the special effects which are flaunted throughout.

Since the plot consists primarily of Cruise whooping ass while Diaz stands next to him looking smitten there isn’t a lot there to discuss. What is really being sold here are the large scale special effects which always attract people into the theatre. It is when director James Mangold attempts to sell coolness that things become icky. The climax is made up mostly of that motorcycle chase through computer generated Seville that we have been seeing in trailers since last summer and it could have worked had they known when to tone things down.

Not to sound anti-fun but did that scene really need CGI bulls AND Diaz riding the motorcycle backwards while firing her gun at bad guys AND poorly written wisecracks meant to get our blood pumping AND absurdly over the top stunt driving that ends up in the middle of a bull fighting ring? The longer it went on and the more focus group approved elements that were thrown in the less interesting it became. Remember how numb you felt walking into the night after seeing Die Another Day? Well, it is not quite that bad but had Mangold been given another 30 minutes I’m sure he could’ve pulled it off.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano
Director: James Mangold
Writer: Patrick O’Neill
Runtime: 110 minutes
Rating: PG 13
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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