Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Laugh, damn you!

First of all, what's with the title? Knight and Day (2010) hardly relates to the movie. There is a tangential relationship with one character, but the title tells you nothing about the movie. If the picture winds up being disappointing financially, some of the blame has to fall on that insipid, content-free title.

Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) does not have a large profile in comedy, but with regard to a film in which the most frequent joke is the number of funny ways bad guys can die, he could be said to get the joke. That is, as Walter Kerr pointed out, whereas in silent films and cartoons, anything can happen to a character without permanent injury, in sound films, when you shoot them, they die. Mangold understands that those deaths have to be quick and bloodless.

It also helps when your audience-identification character--in this case Cameron Diaz--is oblivious to the extreme violence taking place all around her. This joke plays for the first third of the movie, but then Diaz has to be aware of the bodies dropping around her. Then the film becomes annoying because Diaz continues to make idiotic choices although the consequences of making mistakes around Tom Cruise are all around her.

The biggest drawback of the film is that it resolves that Cruise is a good guy far too decisively far too early. As other writers have noted, the film draws a lot of its fun from the feeling we in the audience have that Tom Cruise may just be crazy (that's true in life and in the movie). If he's not crazy, but just super-cool, then he's just another action hero. That's not terrible, but it's not unique.

There is also some pretty poor-looking green screen in the early portion of the film, especially the chase through Boston tunnels. In one shot of Cruise crouching on top of a vehicle, one can almost see the matte line around him.

And, as much fun as the ride is--and it is fun--a movie like this can never really resolve. The spy character will not only be off to more adventures, but unlikely to engage in a permanent relationship with anyone. I suppose one more fantasy doesn't hurt when piled on top of the crazier fantasies that have kept the film afloat.

But we don't know what it's like to ride backward on a motorcycle through Pamplona shooting semi-automatic weapons, but we do know what it's like to try to maintain a relationship. So that fantasy rings false in a why the James Bond stuff can't.

And why don't these films have good music any more? Where are the Henry Manicinis and John Barrys any more?

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