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Knight and Day

tn_knightanddayKNIGHT AND DAY is that action/comedy/romance deal that came out this summer, one of two or three that were about a guy who’s secretly a government agent taking a girl on an unexpected adventure involving guns and crashing vehicles. Of those, this is the one where it’s Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It’s called KNIGHT AND DAY because Cruise’s character takes a little toy of a knight from the airport gift shop to hide something in, and also because it turns out his last name is Knight, and the ‘Day’ comes from Cameron Diaz because she’s playing a young Sandra Day O’Connor. Well, okay, I made up that last part, or at least if it’s true it isn’t made very clear in the movie. Actually there’s no reason for the ‘Day,’ I don’t think they got that far when they were proofreading the title.

I know nobody had very high hopes for this one, but I kind of figured it would be okay just because it’s James Mangold, director of WALK THE LINE. Not a visionary by any stretch of the imagination, and not to brag but I am a visionary so my imagination stretches really far. But he’s usually a decent director and not known for this type of thing, so it seemed potentially interesting I thought. Incorrectly.

mp_knightanddayThe action is actually not bad, ’90s studio style, no post-action bullshit. In fact there are a couple parts I really dug: Cruise doing a spectacular motorcycle freeway overpass jump and mid-air dismount landing on the hood of Diaz’s car, but shown entirely from her perspective. Also the continuous shot of a group of goons walking together and the guy in front doesn’t notice the guys behind him being lassoed and yanked away one-by-one.

Also there’s a gimmick where she gets drugged and then she kind of fades in and out with foggy visions of various huge action scenes that he’s carrying her through, until she finally comes to on an uncharted island. I thought that was a pretty clever idea the first of the three times they did it.

The problem is the movie lost me early on with these characters. Cruise I think is just supposed to be playing his MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE guy, but in a comedy. I guess what makes it a comedy is that he’s used to being drawn into high speed chases, shootouts, deceits and triple crosses, getting framed, set up and back-stabbed in a fight over a powerful alternative energy device, but Diaz is just supposed to be a regular girl trying to get to her sister’s wedding. So she’s supposed to sit in for us when she gets mixed up in all this and doesn’t know if this guy is joking, crazy, lying or for real. She doesn’t know how to shoot an uzi, screams when stuff explodes, etc. Ha ha. She’s like us.

Except we’re not idiots, in my opinion. She’s just so dumb from the beginning, and it doesn’t seem to me like it’s ROMY AND MICHELE type funny-dumb, just badly written type annoying-dumb. There’s too many parts early on where people don’t act like humans in order for the story to happen. Like, let’s say you are a human woman, and you’re flirting with this stranger on a plane, and you go to the bathroom and when you come back you don’t notice that there’s been a huge brawl and the guy has killed everybody else on the plane. Okay, fine, we’re human, we make mistakes. Then the guy starts explaining what happened, and says that he shot the pilot. You assume he’s joking – fine. But as a human, and especially as a human on an airplane in post 9-11 America, don’t you feel a little bit nervous about standing in the middle of a plane laughing while a man you just met loudly “jokes” about shooting the pilot? Yes, you do, because you are a human.

Cameron Diaz in this movie is not a human, so she laughs like it’s a funny joke and thinks nothing of it.

Another example is when her still-in-love-with-her ex (Marc Blucas) comes to her apartment because he thinks she might have been on the plane that just crashed. He’s worried enough that he comes to the home of his ex–girlfriend to check on her, but not worried enough that he stays past 2 or 3 knocks or is visibly relieved in any way when it turns out that she is not dead.

These are dumb little things but too many of these dumb little things kept me from identifying with these characters and situations, killing the comedy and making the movie tedious. Cruise is fine, but he’s playing a superhuman character, he can do anything and never seems to be in danger. He’s kind of somewhat mildly funny in the way he keeps assuring her that everything is fine, especially when he’s hanging upside down and swinging like a pendulum. But it would be much better if she was more convincing as an everywoman.

So the filmatists are utterly failing to ground this Day character, meanwhile they’re busy trying to make her awesome. In THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY I think it was a joke that Diaz was so much a man’s fantasy of the ideal woman that she loves nothing more than sitting around watching sports on TV. But I don’t think it’s a joke here that she’s an expert on restoring vintage sports cars. Then they have to explain this and why she can throw a punch so they have her claim “My dad wanted a boy.” It’s like the old “I learned to shoot guns by playing video games” joke with a light sprinkling of sexism.

I’m probly being a little hard on this movie. I’ve seen worse, and I made it through in one sitting. But it’s just such a waste of time for everybody involved in making and watching it. There’s only one writer credited (Patrick O’Neill, some guy who was in a several John Cusack movies) but it turns out this was one of those things that got started down one road and took too many lefts and ended up getting so lost that it forgot which road it was on, where it was headed and how to put on its pants.

Check out this explanation from IMDb trivia:

Patrick O’Neill originally wrote a serious action thriller, starring Gene Hackman and ‘Justin Long’ (I), with the title “All New Enemies.” When that fell through, Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios retooled it as “Trouble Man,” a romantic action comedy starring Chris Tucker and Eva Mendes. After that fell apart, the script was revised and given a new title, “Wichita.” That script caught the attention of Adam Sandler, who later passed. Gerard Butler considered it, but passed to do The Bounty Hunter (2010) instead. Cameron Diaz became attached after reading a rewrite by Scott Frank. Diaz told her friend and Vanilla Sky (2001) co-star Tom Cruise that he should co-star with her. Cruise took the role. After 7 other writers doctored up the script (Dana Fox, Laeta Kalogridis, Ted Griffin, Nicholas Griffin, Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg, and director James Mangold), and Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman gave it a new title early in production, the project finally became the action comedy “Knight and Day.”

So you watch it wondering why exactly they thought this was a movie worth making, and I’m not sure any of those people listed above would be able to remember. It’s like an animal that started out as a dog and got groomed so much it turned into a bird at the end. Of course it’s not gonna know how to fly.

Why bother to put so much time and money into developing something that just gets developed and developed and developed until there are no edges on it at all? There’s nothing left, it’s just okay, mediocre, set on medium heat, sitting in the middle of the road, not knowing why it’s called “Knight and Day,” but I guess call the co-chairman and see if he can remember.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at 4:15 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

33 Responses to “Knight and Day”

  1. “It’s like an animal that started out as a dog and got groomed so much it turned into a bird at the end. Of course it’s not gonna know how to fly.”

    That’s an awesome line, Vern. Describes a many movies these days, that go through the endless development hell.

    I mostly agree with your review, except that I liked Diaz’s character, mainly because I think Diaz does the airhead routine well, and is naturally charming. The actress elevated the character as much as she could. The film was decent fun, but very forgettable.

    I think Mangold is a solid, reliable craftsman, but “Identity” is the only movie he has made, that had a stronger impression on me. I really like that flick. Very moody and exciting, with some great acting from Cusack.

  2. I hate the way Tom Cruise always plays this super human spy. He comes across as a creepy little man to me, always has done. And he killed The Last Samurai. That could have been some good shit if it had a decent lead.

  3. Shit! I didn’t have my gravatar picture!

  4. Thank god its back. Panic over.

  5. I really liked this movie. It reminded me a lot of the old-fashioned, light-hearted movie spectacles from a bygone era. I don’t think it’s a classic in it’s genre, but it’s far away from the loveless, soulless and boring blockbusters I had to endure this summer (»Iron Man 2« or »The A-Team« for example). The cast, the humour, the score and the direction exceeded my expectations easily, the action sequences were pretty clever in my opinion – the best I’ve seen in an American film this year.

  6. I didn’t enjoy this at all. Cruise is never in danger, ridiculously so, making the action beats not very tense. At the same time, they’re not over the top enough, and Diaz is not relatable enough, to make these beats fun and entertaining. Then you have the fade-outs and this great moment where Cruise turns out to have undressed Diaz and put her in a bikini because hey, who cares, right?

    That’s one of the things RED did right in my opinion, making Mary-Louise Parker into a character longing for adventure and actually somewhat enjoying all of it. Makes it all much easier to swallow.

  7. I thought it was ok. I still liked it because I’m VERY forgiving with movies (95% get 3-5/5 stars), but it clocked in at the bottom of what I’m willing to tolerate. It was ridiculous and corny.

  8. “Cruise is never in danger, ridiculously so”

    Patrick – Then how can you stand any Steven Seagal movie?

    I thought this was decent matinee fare, basically Mangold wanted to make his own ROMANCING THE STONE and in some derivative ways it kinda works I suppose. I saw this at the local budget theatre, $3. Didn’t feel cheated at all.

    I guess Vern now will review THE KILLERS? *urgh*

  9. I have a question. If Diaz is an everywoman, how come there are clips in the trailer of her loading and firing two guns on the back of a motorcycle? I don’t want to spend 2 hours figuring it out so can somebody just tell me please.

  10. Lawrence – The miracle of movies.

  11. Just being around Tom Cruise makes you absorb his awesome powers of awesomeness.

  12. Ah, Tom Rothman decided to randomly retitle it an no one cared enough to ask why or what the new title meant. That sounds about right. Too bad, because the world could always use some LONG KISS GOODNIGHT type fare. But I guess only Shane Black should be legally allowed to write it – it takes a surprisingly deft touch. So many expensive films fail to understand that these things live or die on their characters, not their action.

  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_hell#See_also

    notice the entry for Knight and Day, which i just added 5 minutes ago

  14. “Why bother to put so much time and money into developing something that just gets developed and developed and developed until there are no edges on it at all? There’s nothing left, it’s just okay, mediocre, set on medium heat, sitting in the middle of the road…”

    Welcome to the Hollywood development process. What you describe in this review happens to the majority of mainstream films, sadly.

  15. I worked on this (when it was called WICHITA). We trashed many SUVs. It was awesome. Thanks for mentioning the old-school action, Vern–glad it made the grade.

    Am I the only one, though, who thinks KNIGHT AND DAY recalls the 1989 Mel Gibson – Goldie Hawn action comedy BIRD ON A WIRE? I’m not saying they ripped it off, it’s just weirdly reminiscent of it, right down to the casting….

  16. Is there a reason it was called WICHITA, or was that just a word somebody liked?

  17. Vern – I suppose that opening plane crash in that corn field took place at Wichita?

  18. I heard that they didn’t know what else to call it but had the marketing campaign all planned out and were gonna work the ambiguity angle: “What is Wichita?” Like that.

    This movie didn’t make any sense. Why did Knight need June to be his mule if the battery didn’t set off any alarms? Why did he need to sneak through security at all when he clearly knew the plane was full of operatives waiting to bring him? What was Paul Dano doing in this movie? Did Peter Sarsgaard play the least interesting screen villain of all time?

    Also, Vern, they did that thing you hate where one character repeats something the other character said earlier back to that same character, this time with that weird “changing an unconscious person into swimwear” subplot.

  19. I’m so not into cruise. All I would do is spend the entire time staring at his teeth. Ack! Passing on this one.

  20. Decent action. would have been a five star movie if they would have replaced cruise and diaz with almost anyone else. Hell, trained monkeys could look and act better.

  21. That San Fermin scene in Seville is so wrong. It´s like a Mardi Gras scene set in Chicago.

  22. I really did not like this either. I got tired at the running gags the writers apparently thought were hilarious and kept thinking… “what the hell were they on?” Why makeit a plot point to fade out when the action actually gets thicker? Jumping from one completely different scene to another with no connective tissue really takes the viewer out of it.

    And it’s total bullshit to make Cameron Diaz the everywoman and then somehow at the end, she comes and saves the day while Tom Cruise slips in and out of consciousness. Didn’t we just see her yelping her way through gunfights and car chases?

    Tom Cruise’s best lines were all in the trailer unfortunately. He has the charm to carry those off but it’s not enough for a mess like this movie was.

  23. Vern: In the shooting script I read, it opened in Wichita with Cameron Diaz’s character buying an auto part in a junkyard for a rare vintage car she’s helping restore. Then it cut to the airport and the introduction of Cruise’s character.

    But, I mean, as that IMDB note indicates, it had already gone through a whole bunch of titles, and it became KNIGHT AND DAY halfway through shooting. I remember being truly puzzled when I first heard that–I was like, “KNIGHT AND DAY? What? Is that a fake name like Blue Harvest or something?….” I suspect they started filming without a wholly satisfactory title and WICHITA was always just a temp title too. In fact, I remember the very, very earliest I heard about it, it was called UNTITLED WICHITA PROJECT; and I was told it was also titled THE NICE GUY at some point.

  24. You know something though, I kinda like the poster for this one. A little bit of a Seagalogy vibe to it.

  25. I’ve said it on here before but I actually liked Killers. It’s low-key as all hell, but the action feels right, the performances by the supporting cast are 100% on the mark and the action is clean and crisply shot. Obviously with any movie like this there is no real fear of the two leads being killed, but the action and chases are exhilirating enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. I’d like to see Vern review that instead.

    I like Mangold; like Verbinski he’s a hired-gun director who takes on a wide variety of projects and pulls them off adequately, with the win usually coming from the script more than anything. That’s why Knight and Day stinks – the script is a fucking mess.

  26. I saw this movie for free and I still wanted my money back at the end. It finishes with Tom and Diaz driving to Cobre Verde… from Mexico… WITH A SIGN THAT EVEN SAYS ‘COBRE VERDE 10,000 MILES’!!!!

  27. Incidentally, this is Fox’s biggest moneymaker of the year.

    Seriously even if it divebombed in the States, somehow it ended up a big moneymaker overseas.

    http://www.deadline.com/london/

  28. Ugh. What a terrible movie. I liked Cruise. He played it like an Aspbergers patient, which was funny, but Diaz was annoying, the action was totally stale and lifeless, the plot twists made no sense and the closing song is the worst thing the Black Eyed Peas have ever produced. Consider that. This movie contains the nadir of BEP’s career. They also made, “My Humps” into a massive hit.

    It would have been massively improved if they kept some angle of mystery to Cruise. I actually wondered if maybe he *had* gone rouge for a minute because he was so creepy. If you followed Diaz into the bathroom and then came out AFTER the gunfight and had Cruise explain the aftermath, without having seen it, it would have been much cooler. Have her pass out then wake up in her bed STILL not knowing and don’t reveal Cruise’s superhero status until the bike chase. Also, there should have been a payoff to the set up that Cruise is crazy. I just hate movies where the villain’s cover story is more interesting than the real payoff.

    I was kinda hoping this was a movie about a secret agent with delusions about being a secret agent.

  29. You know I actually didn’t mind this movie – it’s breezy and light, and the action sequences were great. I kinda dug the blatant CGI and exaggerated physics for once. Plus Cruise is charmingly nuts- the whole thing seems like a companion piece to Collateral but as a romantic comedy. (Cruise also seems to be channeling Rob Lowe on Parks and Recreation, even though I’m not sure which character came first).

    I guess I liked how the movie seemed to take pride in how tossed-off it felt – which is kinda cute but I can understand why anyone expecting a big summer blockbuster would be disappointed. (Well it was marketed as a blockbuster and came out in the summer, so….) Even the bland villain and his ridiculous comeuppance (which really reminded me of Paul Sorvino’s demise in Double Team) were kind of hilarious, even though you do have to wonder why the hell Peter Saarsgard would accept this role.

    One thing though – as you guys mentioned, this movie overtakes The Rookie (Eastwood, not Quaid) as the new gold standard in “recycle a line from earlier in the movie but now another character is saying it”. Almost the entire last 5 minutes of this movie is Diaz saying Cruise’s lines back to him, it’s ridiculous.

  30. Btw, you guys are crazy. Refrains are at the core of my storytelling instincts. I *never* write a feature without 2 or 3 really good refrains. Preferably entire sequences that act as refrains. Of course, I’ve also been working on writing a movie that functions as a structural palindrome with all the sequences from the first half repeating in the second half, in reverse order. I’m totally gay for postmodernism like that. I know it will never be made, but I wanna do it, to prove that I can.

  31. Henry Fielding used that kind of symmetry to great effect with the more subtle, not quite palindromic, architectonic structure of the novel TOM JONES, a literary masterpiece.

    Maybe you can find a way to make it “postmodern” and tighten up the extent to which your scenes are exact refrains, but it’s been done. You don’t want Vern to review your dream movie project and then dismiss it like Odd Future, saying, “That kid Tawdry got nothing new to show us,” do you?

  32. Tawdry, just in case you aren’t familiar with issue 5 of the Watchmen comic book series, it does just what you said. The first half of the comic is mirrored by the second half, in reverse, with the middle page of the issue being the turning point of the “palindrome”. Do a search on Fearful Symmetry (the name of the issue)…

  33. Yeah, I know Watchmen. Good stuff. I’ll have to check out Tom Jones. And I look forward to the day when Vern can dismiss me as a hack.

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