Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Review: Knight & Day

Staring ominously at someone you've never met (while wearing Nicholson style black sunglasses) is no way to behave. Speaking like that to someone is another thing not to do in social situations... Especially inside an airport in 2010 America. 

Which is how Roy Miller (Cruise) conducts himself the first time we meet him. June Haven (Diaz) reacts by trading secrets and stories with him over cheesy music on an airplane bound for Boston. Hmm... Okay. 2 minutes later, an inspired and unique fight sequence takes place aboard their plane with June in the bathroom with "Just-met-that-someone-who-I'm-starting-to-like" jitters.  

But wait! There's more!

Plenty of people around (Tinsel) town are slamming this worse then the printer from Office Space. and treat it like the new decade's Gigli. (Curious the score is by the same guy who did Gigli. He's good, I like him, but I'm just sayin'...) Seriously people are near offended at this thing. I've been following it and this is not going so well for Mangold, Diaz and Cruise. But why? 'Cuz the action is at times obvious CGI? And because there is too much of it? I say so what, as long as you can tolerate the leads enough to get good fun out of it. Diaz and Cruise give us characters elevated above what so-so summer time brainless action performers are capable of. American film critic and professor Emanuel Levy (a critic I like and follow from time to time) was critical of the film's writing, calling it a "mindless flick"; he noted, "The story moves at a breakneck speed, as if to conceal the incongruities in the storytelling." Levy gave it a grade "C" and said, "Preposterously plotted, the saga is dominated by long, energetic, uneven action sequences, but it lacks any logic and pays minimal attention to characterization. Repetitious in structure, and with humor that more often than not misses the mark, 'Knight and Day' is characterized by nihilistic violence and amoral tone, which wouldn't have mattered had the movie been witty or fun to watch." 

Well... I had fun. Fun, as we all know, is MATTER OF OPINION. So does that make him wrong and me right? Or him right and me wrong? A summer action comedy... Are you really that surprised? '07 was a good year for film. '08 was an arguably better one. In the recent years though, Summer blockbuster's have been declining in quality for the audience. Which is a way of saying that people are getting harder to please. Or maybe, we could argue that audiences don't want to be feed pure grain bullshit at the box office. Especially not when the ticket prices are as high as they are.

This movie is a rather inspired piece of celluloid. Bringing Mangold into different but familiar territory. Kate & Leopold is a romance comedy. 3:10 to Yuma (which almost stared Cruise as Crowe's character) was a return to appropriate form, with a fresh take on the western genre after years of virtually none at the box office. And now? A blending of action and light romance comedy. This film is made well, handled well, and executed well. Too bad they didn't catch that with the script though. Just a few less action sequences and we would have had something real good to talk about here, and not how badly Cruise is in trouble now with his M:I 4 feature in the pipeline. 

Things happen in this script. Like when Roy tells June to stay in her hotel room, and she says, "Where else am I gonna go?" Do you even need a brain stem to find out what happens next? No, you do not. That kinda stuff insults me these days. I'm sure the audience felt the same way. Though like I said, If it wasn't for the caliber of these two, I'm not sure I would lived through this experience without my head exploding. But maybe that isn't excuse enough for a poorly executed script. Speaking of the script, the movie is this: some geek invented a battery that never runs outa juice and can power a whole city. Everybody wants it but Roy has it and won't give it up without a fight. June's along for the ride. By accident.

I'll say this though, Cruise, has shown us his natural talent for being a little kooky, a little off... (In the media fa sho) But as far as film goes (short of Magnolia) you don't notice that until you see him unleash that in this one. (People have argued that, but they don't count 'cuz their not annalists with brains) Does Cruise understand that? Did he have the script tailored to fit his character out with more disturbed qualities?  Does he see the pubic image of himself? Is he using that to his advantage? Manipulating the "Crazy Cruise" persona into a form of self-mockery and good ol' laughing-it-off, is he? In a scene in where "he's the guy" in a diner, he shows us the on-edge, paranoia character he has in this movie. 

When he's not laughing, and cracking smooth jokes, he's doing this while holding a gun to June's head:
"Pie? Everyone gets pies! Pie for everyone! (Pointing the gun at a startled waitress) Everyone gets pies okay? ...No one follows us! Or I kill myself then her..."
See what I mean? But it was strangely funny and well executed. 49:33 So many actors coulda Shia Labeouffed it i.e. over acted. This film marks a first for Cruise in his career: an action rom-com. He's done romance-comedy-drama twice now. But never combined more than one in a film with action. Interesting choice, but goes back to what I've said about his right-hook.

Thinking with a few others and the general problems with the movie people have, I coulda say this kinda stuff:
The (anti) hero he attempts to play in this one is a misguided attempt to step out of his usual characters and into something different. It didn't work in my opinion. Unless his focus and goal was to quietly creep the audience out while providing a whole slue of nonsensical action sequences. Yes, your 47 and still kicking hard, doing most of your own stunts and making sure the raw set photos are released to prove it--terrific.
But I don't really believe that. While those things exist, that's not the way the movie really lives and breathes. I promise. Well.. yeah, there's a fuck load of near unmerited action, I can give you that one.

Cruise has an uncanny ability to hold a swag few in this business can match in ways. A swag other men in this business seriously dream of. This ability has been honed over a lengthy career. It wasn't the best at first, but the 90's fleshed it out through a series of wisely chosen roles. When I see it attempted to be replicated through others in film or television, it just comes off like a bad impression on Youtube. If you read this thing, then you'll know I'm convinced that while his career may be a little dubious at this point, he's still one of the best around and he'll be okay. Seriously. (Or we can use this as proof my crystal ball is on the fritz)

Diaz is essentially Diaz, which is a way of saying she was everything the role needed to elevate it. Albeit she's a panicked, shooting guns, spitting witty one-liners and running around Diaz. There are subtle nuances of the reasons why she flew so high in the beginning of her career. Her comedic timing is always good and well approached. She's one of the most charming actresses around. She shows you this with her soft voice, well executed lines, ability to summon tears in her eyes without letting them fall, and the hand-in-hand hilarious cutesy laugh and wonderful smile. 

In a car ride with Roy, she get's angry when he tells her he warned her not to get on the plane. He said "everything happens for a reason," she shoots him this little gem:
"That's not a warning, that's a bumper sticker! If you wanted to warn me you coulda said, 'June, if you get on this plane you will fucking die!' "
June could have been annoying in the back-fired vein of Cate Capshaw in Indy 2. She wasn't. But that didn't stop people from slamming both her and Cruise. They did a fine job, how much better would it have been with Eva Mendes and Chris Tucker in this? The marketing and advertising for the film has been called desperate and ridiculous. The trailers were made fun of, the whole film for the last five years has gone through three directors, and four different leads before settling on Cruise, Diaz and Mangold. A lot people wrote this off immediately, some even despise it. There are a few supporting players in this. Peter Sarsgaard plays the FBI agent chasing Miller. His well honed and very terrific talents and abilities as an actor with class are essentially wasted in this script though. No doubt the idea of being part of a machine with Cruise, Diaz, and the new elite Viola Davis was too attractive to pass up. Plus with a budget this big (a whopping $125 mill), I'm sure he got paid too. Speaking of Davis, she has sparse screen time, you'd almost feel she was just having the fun the project must have supplied to make. But she made her FBI Director a little less then dull. Paul Dano is scruffier then usual. When we meet him, his face is hanging out of a train window, he's screaming for joy. Too bad it wasn't with a bible in hand, his best work to date. He does what he can with the hastily thrown together character who has more time on screen listening to his i-pod then engaging in conversation with other human beings.

Summing up the film, I'll hand it over the title of: "This whole movie is one big excuse for action sequences that feature Cruise being funny and cool at the same time with a hot blond along the way"

But while applicable, I refuse to sell it like that. I was pleased with it, appreciate the film makers for it, and enjoyed my 110 minutes. Everyone can say what they want about this, but three A-list elements were involved in this and pulled together a well played summer gem. Fuck off if you don't believe me (I love being the boss of my own blog). 

So what I'm getting at is: this thing coulda been a lot worse.  

Munki out. 

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