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Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz spring through patchy, enjoyable “Knight and Day”

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Knight & Day (**1/2 out of 4 stars)
Some films promise tidy scripts, tangible suspense, and well-earned emotional moments between properly developed characters. Other films deliver impeccable Movie Stars (capitalized for emphasis) executing heart-racing motorcycle chases through international destinations like Seville, Spain during the annual running of the bulls.

The high-octane “Knight and Day” lands in that latter category, but harbors aspirations of being in the former class. At times, it gets there. Other times, it doesn’t.

When it falls short, it’s usually the fault of a patched-together screenplay. Patrick O’Neill receives script credit, though “Knight” notoriously passed through several hands before director James Mangold caught it in 2009 and reworked it. Again. What he ends up with is a frivolous, fast-moving, globetrotter of a summer blockbuster that’s more glamorous and fun than it is clever and intricate. The sooner you accept its diminished intelligence level, the more fun you are bound to have.

Lead actors Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz certainly seem to be having a blast, literally and figuratively, as they plunge through Mangold’s well-choreographed hoops. Cruise plays Roy, a lethal agent for a covert government operation who meets innocent bystander June (Diaz) as they’re attempting to board a Boston-bound plane. If we are to believe Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard) — the shady agent on Roy’s tail — this rogue operative capped 12 colleagues before stealing an extremely valuable renewable energy source dubbed the MacGuffin … ahem, the Zephyr. Roy swears he is only trying to protect Simon (Paul Dano), the Zephyr’s teenaged inventor. June soon realizes she won’t be leaving Roy’s sight until the case is closed.

Mangold hopes we’ll focus on The Ride (capitalized, again, for emphasis), and for most of “Knight,” we do. Elaborate action scenes catapult our handsome protagonists around Boston’s highways, into a train traveling through the Alps, over the rooftops of Austria, and down to Spain.

How do Roy and June manage these lengthy jaunts? Don’t ask, because O’Neill can’t answer. “Knight” is stitched together in spots, so a plane can crash in a cornfield one evening yet the surviving characters wake up in their Boston beds the next morning. Apparently Roy also unlocked the secrets to teleportation in addition to boosting that coveted battery. No wonder the government needs him silenced. The oil industry would be in an uproar if we no longer needed automobiles, trains, or airplanes to trot the globe the way Roy and June can. When “Knight” doesn’t feel up to explaining how the action moves from Point A to Point F, June is drugged and wakes up where the movie needs the couple to be next. It’s convenient. Too many of those jumps (in logic), though, and you’d be wishing for a handful of those magic drugs yourself.

Mangold, however, knows when to pull back and when to lean on his mega-wattage stars, who beam brighter thanks to the ever-ready batteries that have powered their careers for years. Cruise scores his first legitimate comedic role (outside of the Les Grossman fat suit), and tempers Roy’s overconfidence in hectic situations with the perfect amount of charisma. Diaz, meanwhile, is relegated to screaming-damsel until Mangold releases her from that hold, and the blonde beauty’s screen persona is allowed to fill the screen.

If there’s a crucial bit of “Knight” that continued to nag me following our screening it was that. Why did Mangold ultimately go with Diaz for the June role? Of course, I understand the director’s desire to match Cruise’s genuine spark with an equally vibrant, A-list leading lady, and Diaz is up to that challenge.

But considering her usually confident, headstrong persona, as well as her history as a butt-kicking Angel for the heard-but-not-seen Charlie, I spent too much time in “Knight” just waiting for June to wake up, shake off the nerves, and start capping bad guys. In an alternate universe exists a slightly skewed version of “Knight and Day” where Cruise must reel in, protect, and ultimately romance someone who is funny, sunny, yet not physically capable of turning around on a speeding motorcycle and firing off massive hand cannons. Someone like Sarah Silverman. Now that would be a stretch for both talented entertainers.

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