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Cruise-Diaz chemistry saves formulaic Knight

Article Published: Jul. 1, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Cruise-Diaz chemistry saves formulaic Knight

Tom Cruise hasn't come a long way from leaping maniacally on Oprah Winfrey's couch.

In the new action-comedy, Knight and Day, he's leaping maniacally on Cameron Diaz's car, along with just about everything else, in what boils down to 110-minute series of over-the-top action sequences that fits the mold of your formulaic summer blockbuster.

But let's give credit where it's due. Knight and Day is surprisingly likeable, due mostly to the chemistry between its two leads. Cruise (Mission: Impossible) and Diaz (There's Something About Mary) make a fun duo, their amusing exchanges and rapid-fire dialogue easily the film's most enjoyable aspects.

Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) seems to be aiming for James Cameron's True Lies dynamic, one that masterfully balances hilarity with suspense.

In this case, Knight is somewhat lopsided, favoring straight-up action over character development, which would vest viewers in said action and make the jokes all the funnier.

Instead, practically every character-driven scene serves as a simple link between vehicular chases.

The balance is off, but Knight and Day can't be faulted for pace. Once it starts, it never slows down.

Cruise stars as Roy Miller, a dangerously (but hilariously) impulsive CIA agent, who may or may not have gone rogue. He's attempting to keep some sort of super battery out of the wrong hands, and, in the process, accidentally brings hapless traveler June Havens (Diaz) into the fray.

Before she knows it, June's swept away into the world of espionage, dodging bullets, evading government agents, and trying like hell to distance herself from Roy and regain a sense of normalcy. Each time she thinks she's escaped, Roy literally comes crashing in.

Drawn to Roy's charms and increasingly thrilled with this newfound world of adventure and intrigue, June determines to help Roy on his quest, for better or worse.

For better, it takes them to all corners of the globe, from Boston to the Azores to Spain. For worse, they're doggedly pursued by secret operatives and a crime syndicate the entire way.

As far as action movies go, Knight is straight-up formula, from its stereotypical antagonist (Peter Sarsgaard, An Education) to the nerdy scientist (Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood) to every predictable twist and turn - and there are many.

But they're not so much twists and turns as they are "curve ahead" signs. You know something's going to explode, just not the manner in which it will do so. And in terms of formula, this works somewhat to Knight's advantage.

Unfortunately, it can't help Mangold and actor-turned-writer Patrick O'Neill from writing themselves into a corner. When the going gets a little too tough for Roy and June, Mangold exercises a plot device that, while amusing at first, seems increasingly lazy with each go around, as it magically whisks our protagonists out of harm's way.

But the action is mostly enjoyable, if not a little too reliant on computer-generated imagery, which still can't shine a light on actual pyrotechnics and stunt work. The difference is night and day.

But Cruise and Diaz save the day, and not just narratively speaking. As Miller, Cruise is a solid fit, bringing that self-assured, seemingly invincible swagger he flaunted in the '80s (coupled with that post-Oprah loony-ness) to a consistently cool action hero who's obviously a couple rounds short of an ammo clip.

And Diaz is delightful as June, offering more than just a pretty face in a cat-suit, ala Charlie's Angels. While her role is mainly reactive, Diaz's expressions and comic timing make her otherwise run-of-the-mill character something more memorable - and that's saying a lot for a summer blockbuster.

Knight and Day, rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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