Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise show occasional glints of chemistry and have bits of action fun in Knight and Day, a strange hybrid animal that seems to have no natural habitat.
June Havens (Diaz) gets on a flight from Kansas to Boston pulling carry-on luggage full of car parts. She rebuilds classic cars and needs these muffler-whatevers to finish off a family heirloom in time for her sister’s wedding. Roy Miller (Cruise) is skulking around the airport gift shop, scoping out other passengers. When he bumps into June not once but twice, we know something’s up. When they end up on the plane together, bantering and drinking, June thinks she’s being hit on but soon she realizes she’s actually being prepared for an emergency landing. When she wakes up in her apartment, she’s not quite sure what’s happening but soon men in suits, led by Agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), show up to try to figure out what she knows about Roy. Quickly thereafter, the chasing and shooting begins and June has to decide which story about Roy is true: Is he an agent on the run from bad guys looking to kidnap a computer genius (Paul Dano) and his potentially world-changing invention or has he gone rogue and begun to work with the enemy?
As you might have been able to glean from the trailers, Knight and Day is a strange movie. You can’t tell what it is — some but not a lot of action, not quite a comedy, romantic but not overwhelmingly so. It’s like tasting some strange new food — lemon goat cheese basil torte, cilantro onion duck taco, strawberry fudge. You don’t know what to make of it; your taste buds aren’t sure what to do with it. Even while you’re snacking on this movie, you’re thinking “I know I don’t hate it, but I’m not sure I’m enjoying it.”
And truly, I didn’t hate Knight and Day. I won’t go so far as to say Diaz and Cruise have chemistry. But they don’t not have chemistry. They don’t actively repel each other, the way Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl did in Killers. They have chemistry with the camera if not always with us. There is something here that might remind you of why Cruise was once the captain of the USS Dreamboat and you get glimpses of the There’s Something About Mary zaniness that briefly made Diaz the It girl. Cruise here plays a character who could be an on-edge devil-may-care agent or a barely contained loon and he makes it work. You can believe his character going either way, even if movie experience tells you immediately what his motives are. It isn’t the cocky Cruise from his pre-nuts days and that’s good — I think I like this guy better.
Knight and Day is obvious and nonsensical at times but it is also occasionally cute and funny. I think I may have chuckled and I probably only looked at my watch once or twice. The story doesn’t completely click together, you aren’t enjoying something you’ve never seen before or a new take on a familiar genre. You’re watching pieces of spy-vs.-spy movies, buddy road movies, romantic comedies and big action movies float around in space and bump into each other, sometimes creating pretty-ish sparks.
Here’s the only thing I can be absolutely certain of about this movie: Viola Davis shows up periodically to play a CIA director and she is awesome. She has facial expressions that kick more ass than entire action sequences and she can deliver lines like “What did you think, you’d move in together, get a dog?” with real oomph. Give this woman a movie — no, a movie franchise. Or a TV series. Give her anything. Give her even a comedy-action-basil-goat-cheese thing like this, and I am so there. C+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language. Directed by James Mangold and written by Patrick O’Neill, Knight and Day is an hour and 38 minutes long and opened in wide release on Wednesday, June 23. It is distributed by 20th Century Fox..