Disaster Movie: Ryan Gilbey Wonders If Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz Will Ever Work Again
Gilbey, Ryan, New Statesman (1996)
Knight and Day (12A)
dir: James Mangold
When taking on a misguided or unflattering part, actors are sometimes said to have committed career suicide. Knight and Day, an action comedy that's nonsensical from the title down, must be one of the first instances of two actors simultaneously saying: "Goodbye, cruel world." Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are the signatories of the suicide pact in question. If they come back from this one, Lazarus will have nothing on them.
Diaz plays June, whose dogged effervescence suggests she is about to say or do something perfectly charming, in the same way that the accordion on the soundtrack promises a certain European quirkiness or sophistication. June is a good match, then, for Roy (Cruise), a fellow passenger with whom she flirts openly on a flight out of Wichita, Kansas. Roy's knowing demeanour also indicates that a witty line is just around the corner. And just around the corner is where it stays.
What June doesn't realise is that Roy is a secret agent and wrongly suspected turncoat. While she's in the bathroom on the plane, there's a shoot-out and he despatches the other passengers, who've been sent to bump him off. The writer Patrick O'Neill has come up with the dotty idea of having June discover the carnage only once the plane banks and the corpses roll sideways in their seats. James Mangold, previously director of such gigglefests as Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted, fudges the rhythm of this promising gag, which remains only theoretically amusing.
It does, however, begin a running joke in which June proves oblivious to the risks around her. Her already limited powers of perception can hardly be sharpened by Roy's special fondness for drugging her in order to transport her from one destination to another as he goes on the run and attempts to clear his name. That he undresses June while she's insensible is presented as evidence of how delightfully incorrigible he is. Each time she regains consciousness in some part of the world, the film moves closer to being the world's first Rohypnol romcom.
On those occasions when she is sentient, June tends to flap hysterically. …