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Published: Wednesday, 6/23/2010

Movie review: 'Knight and Day' ***

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz ride through the streets of Seville, Spain, in a scene from 'Knight and Day.' Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz ride through the streets of Seville, Spain, in a scene from 'Knight and Day.'
FRANK MASI, SMPSP Enlarge

"Knight and Day" is a mostly uninspired action-romantic-comedy with at least one compelling reason to see it: Tom Cruise.

For those who consider the A-lister a second-rate actor, observe how much "Knight and Day" deflates whenever Cruise leaves the screen for long periods — thankfully for the film, that's not a lot.

Cruise, as covert agent Roy Miller, smiles, shoots and pummels villains, shows off his abs, and has such a generally fun time in the role that it's contagious.

But when "Knight and Day" is left to co-star Cameron Diaz and others to carry on the good times, the movie quickly grinds to a halt and you begin to quibble with the preposterous story and plot: something about a revolutionary small battery having enough juice to power a city, and those with crooked intentions who want to possess it.

Roy is doing his best to keep the battery and its teenage inventor, Simon Feck (Paul Dano), safe. Or so he says. Others say Roy is a rogue agent and now enemy of the state who is trying to sell the battery to the highest bidder.

The movie tries to keep you guessing about Roy's true intentions, though it's never really in doubt. This is Tom Cruise, aka Mr. America, after all.

Along for the ride is Diaz as the film's ordinary Jane, named June Havens, who unwittingly gets involved with Roy after he hides the top-secret battery in her luggage so he can sneak it through airport security. Roy retrieves the device and unsuccessfully tries to keep June off of the plane, which is loaded with government agents trying to kill him. The pair share a brief flirtation on the plane, and when June excuses herself to freshen up in the bathroom, Roy faces off with his assailants. When June returns to her seat, the passengers and pilots are dead and Roy is forced to land the plane in a field. As a top agent, he's apparently good at just about everything.

Safe on the ground, June is now linked to Roy, and he warns her federal agents soon will be after her as well.

Perhaps out of guilt or attraction — the movie never really explains his motives — Roy returns to rescue June from certain death at the hands of government agents, including chief rival Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard most recently seen in last year's An Education as the older lover of a teenage girl), and the two go on the run in a globe-trotting mission to save Simon and protect his invention from falling into the wrong hands.

Written by first-time screenwriter Patrick O'Neill, "Knight and Day" has a few things going for it beyond its ageless star, who turns 48 in less than two weeks but could pass for someone a decade younger.

O'Neill's script isn't particularly fresh or believable, but it offers at least one novel idea: drugged escapes.

When Roy and June get into a jam and she begins to panic, he drugs her to make their implausible escapes that much easier. As June comes in and out of consciousness she opens her eyes to see she and Roy are in a new location, such as a plane, a boat, or a tropical island.

O'Neill may have come up with the smartest device yet to leap from one event to the next without burdening the plot and audiences with the typical mindless mayhem, car chases, and fight scenes.

Beyond that, the movie is mostly more of the same tired contrivances we've seen in numerous other action films, as Roy and rival agents and hit men square off.

While Cruise is game for the mix of comedy, action, and a dash of romance, Diaz comes up considerably short. She and Cruise have almost zero chemistry on screen, which dulls the romantic angle. And the actress is a bit of a bore elsewhere in the film. She's less of a presence on screen than a prop, carted from scene to scene.

Director James Mangold, who's had considerable success in dramas ("3:10 to Yuma," "Cop Land") but is a colossal failure in romantic-comedy ("Kate & Leopold"), partially redeems himself for the latter, but is still unable to truly string together anything but a mostly run-of-the-mill actioner.

Thankfully for Mangold, there's Cruise to save the day and the movie.

Contact Kirk Baird at:

kbaird@theblade.com

or 419-724-6734.



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