Movie-star presence counts for a lot less than it used to. Franchise branding is now more important than glamorous faces, but Knight and Day is built entirely around the charisma of its two leads, both of whom could once open blockbusters all by themselves. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz aren’t has-beens, certainly, but their thousand-watt smiles aren’t as valuable as they once were. The two put the entire force of their charms behind Knight and Day’s strained action-comedy; unfortunately, it’s never quite enough.
Cruise’s charisma very nearly overcomes the inherent creepiness of his cagey federal agent Roy Miller, who’s on the run from his superiors after being framed by a corrupt colleague (Peter Sarsgaard) for stealing an important whatchamacallit from a secret base. Roy runs into hapless traveler June Havens (Diaz) as the two are about to board a flight to Boston, and soon she’s inadvertently wrapped up in his adventure, pursued by the same relentless assailants and dragged halfway around the world to various exotic locales for car chases and clandestine meetings.
And, of course, Roy and June fall in love, as one can only expect in a movie like this. Knight does a much better job of balancing witty banter and over-the-top action than the recent Killers did, but it’s still not nearly as clever as it would like to be, and spends far too much time on rote action sequences that suffer from second-rate special effects. Cruise and Diaz are special enough effects on their own, and when they’re working hard to win each other over (along with the audience), the movie can coast on their likability. But when director James Mangold (whose credits range from Walk the Line to Kate & Leopold) tries to stage huge action set pieces or pay attention to the nonsensical plot, things grind completely to a halt.
Even the star power eventually wanes, and Roy is so weirdly controlling that his romantic advances border on sexual harassment. Cruise and Diaz are fun to watch, but never convincing as the freewheeling couple they ought to be. Their particular brands could use a little revitalization.