If the best surprises are the ones that come out of nowhere, I don'tunderstand why everyone gets so upset when I cut their brake lines.
Professionally, almost all my big surprises are good. Once in a whileI go into a theater expecting big things from a director or cast, onlyto see them whap me in face with a wet Nerf bat for two hours, but forthe most part I'm caught off guard by the stuff I felt certain wouldsuck — yet, through hard word, sorcery or satanic bargain, didn't.
The thorn to that rose is when you're pleasantly surprised, it's easyto mistake "better than expected" for "legitimately awesome." Many'sthe night I've stayed up bandaging my wrists after handing out anextraneous +. I'm running that risk again with theshould-have-been-terrible Knight and Day, but what can I say,it entertained the bejesus out of me.
Cameron Diaz is charmed when she bumps into Tom Cruise at an airport,but she's a little put off after he gets attacked by and killseveryone on their flight, including the pilots. The next day she'spicked up by men posing as federal agents — men who Cruise warned hermight try to kill her.
When things go south, he rescues her. Cruise is possibly a bad guy,and he definitely stole something from the U.S. government, but he's theonly person who can stop Diaz from being killed.
The basic tenets of being cool require me to hate Tom Cruise, andgenerally I'm happy to oblige. (Not that I need any help being cool;you should see my elf costume.) The fact I kind of liked Cruise inKnight and Day is almost as preposterous as the movie itself.
I say "preposterous" with impressed, surprised approval. The scenewhere Diaz flirts away in the middle of a plane filled with people shedoesn't realize are dead — that is some seriously insane, seriouslyfunny shit. Pulling off a scene like that should be as impossible asnot strangling that stupid barking dog who lives in the apartmentbelow you, but director James Mangold underplays it enough for itsinherent ridiculousness to shine.
That's Knight and Day in a nutshell: it sometimes plays as ablack parody of the spy/action genre but mostly plays as a funny,high-energy spy/action thing. In some ways, the upcoming comparison isjust wrong, but tonally, the movie's not that far off from Shaun ofthe Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Of course, the whole thing could have been ruined if Cruise hadoveracted it, and man, there is more room for ham in his role than inthe National Bacon Silo and its gift shop. His non-manic approach willevoke sighs of relief from audiences everywhere.
Diaz, on the other hand, does some screeching. If you could see myface, it would be a frown.
There's not a whole lot of that, however, and whenever there is, youcan anticipate a quick jump back to comic action. First-timescreenwriter Patrick O'Neill's script isn't flawless (not all thedialogue works as well as it wants to), but it's clever, offbeat andstuffed with conceptual absurdity. Diaz's attraction to Cruise worksmuch better than it should, in part because she clearly doesn'tunderstand it that well herself.
Really, the only reason Knight and Day isn't flat-out great isits third act can't sustain its wild pace. The story resolves wellenough, it just seems to stick around a little too long. Despite that,Mangold maintains his tonal mastery of semi-satire, and what the hell,I'm even down with the romance.
Going in, I expected this would have a whelk's chance in a supernova of being any good, but you know what? Ithink it'll surprise you, too.