As an over-the-top "Mission: Impossible" episode featuring exotic locales and carefree banter, "Knight" no doubt will bring in crowds looking for nonstop action, especially with those stars. But the miscalculations are considerable, which might cause the movie to leave a lot of boxoffice coin on the table when all is said and done.
The primary miscalculation in the film, directed by James Mangold from a screenplay by Patrick O'Neill, comes with those two stars. In a film that makes no pretense at the plausibility of any of the action, its makers are counting heavily on audience involvement with Cruise and Diaz. But the film never gives them quiet moments together. The film's one romantic line comes late in the game, when Diaz's June Havens, feeling the effects of a truth serum, declares that she'd like to have sex with Roy.
Then there's the action. When one begins their film with a plane crash -- featured in every TV spot -- one has nowhere to go but to up the ante with each successive sequence: a chase on freeways, a shootout in a factory, an airplane bombing a tiny island atoll and more chases through narrow European city streets. The film never establishes any rhythm to build to these sequences. Action simply follows action in a tiresome manner.
For that matter, the film never establishes a logical reason for Diaz to be involved at all. In the opening, June keeps bumping into Roy at the Wichita, Kan., airport, though one realizes Roy plans each "accident." Against all reason, June is seated on the same plane with Roy despite the fact this is a decoy flight with only bad guys aboard. Why is she there?
Nevermind, Roy kills every bad guy, which sets the film's cheerfully amoral tone that sees only good times and laughs in the deaths of many. Then Roy force-lands the plane in a cornfield in the middle of nowhere.
Which gives rise to another story flaw that the script turns into a running gag: How does Roy get out of this predicament? What he does do and continues to do throughout the movie in situations of increasing entrapment is to drug June -- and therefore the audience -- so she and the audience wake up in another state or country with no explanation of how Roy got everyone there.
One really would like to know how Roy got them off that atoll in a helicopter while a bad guy's jet is overhead. The film's cheating is considered part of the joke, though, and the joke is that this is just a movie, so there need be no further explanation than good guys always get away from bad guys in movies.
Of course, the film also wants one to believe that Roy might not be a good guy, that he possibly is an agent who has gone rogue. Because Cruise is playing Roy, and a glum Peter Sarsgaard plays the spy chasing Roy, this shadow of a doubt doesn't go far.
Such fine character actors as Paul Dano, Viola Davis and Jordi Molla aren't so much used as wasted because the script is too lazy to develop any of its characters -- and that includes the leads.
In fact, laziness permeates the film from the inexplicable escapes to the neglected romance.
Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael and the stunt team do fine jobs on all the action sequences, but the digital tricks are too apparent. It's times like this when one realizes how indolent filmmakers are getting in using CGI more as a crutch than an enhancement to action movies.
Opens: Wednesday, June 23 (Fox)
Production: Fox and Regency Entertainment present a Pink Machine/Todd Garner/Tree Line Film production
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Maggie Grace
– The Hollywood Reporter