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Cruise 'Knight' in action-comedy

Published June 30. 2010 05:00PM

Thrills, chills and Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, too.

"Knight and Day" is a nifty thriller, perhaps the blockbuster season's most sheerly entertaining to date.

As someone asked at the screening: "What's this film about?"

"Tom Cruise," was the reply.

Indeed, "Knight and Day" is on Cruise control. Visceral action scenes are right out of "Die Hard," "True Lies" and James Bond movies. The plot is intriguing as in the "Bourne" films. Visual elements recall scenes from director Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "To Catch a Thief."

Recounting the storyline might give away too many twists and turns, which are among the movie's best elements.

Mainly though, it's Cruise and Diaz, who are very appealing individually and, together, are great. You really believe the chemistry, well, more like sparks, between them. In this way, the movie recalls the rapport and friction between Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in "Speed."

Roy Knight (Cruise) bursts into the life of the unsuspecting June Havens (Diaz) as she waits to board a plane to Boston. Her main concern is to get to her sister's wedding. Knight has other plans and where he goes, trouble follows. They're off on an armchair traveler's dream tour: Austria, Germany and Spain.

Diaz plays a gear head gal who owns a garage and is restoring a Goat, a pre-'70s Pontiac GTO muscle car. Her sunny, but slightly wacky disposition, along with her full moon face, big eyes and cartoonish mouth, are perfect for the part.

Cruise has less of a back story in the movie, but from the glint in his eyes, smirky smile and pugnacious jut of his jaw, we can imagine it's a good one. Cruise has a self-assured presence, not unlike that in his "Mission Impossible" movies (No. 4 is on the way).

Peter Sarsgaard is becoming the go-to-guy for evil dysfunctionalism. He's so physically unimposing as to be under the radar. Paul Dano as a nerdy inventor has his moments.

The plot is improbable. The close calls and near-death experiences, including a demolition derby like smashup on Boston's I-93, are equally preposterous.

James Mangold ("3:10 to Yuma," "Walk the Line," "Cop Land," "Girl, Interrupted") is a solid director who knows when to cut to the next scene before the viewer has time to comprehend the implausibilities. The editing is as break-neck as the stunts and chase sequences.

The screenplay is by Patrick O'Neill, in his big-screen debut. The comedic dialogue fairly crackles between Cruise and Diaz. Mangold wisely lets the camera linger on their impressive visages and frames.

One quibble with the movie is its title. The "Knight" of the title is, of course, the last name of the main character, the world-wise spy, Roy Knight, played by Tom Cruise. There's a pun apparent in "Knight and Day." That's why the last name of June Havens, the character played by Cameron Diaz, should have been Day, which would have symbolized her naivety. "Knight and Havens" just wouldn't work.

"Knight and Day," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language; Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller; Run time 1 hr., 50 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Credit Readers Anonymous: Daryl Hall & John Oates' "Private Eyes" is on the "Knight and Day" soundtrack. The Black Eyed Peas sing the title song, "Someday," over the closing credits.

Box Office, June 25: The Toys in "Toy Story 3" are apparently more popular than Tom Cruise or Adam Sandler, retaining No. 1 with a still impressive $59 million and $226.5 million after two weeks. Adam Sandler's laughs were bigger than the thrills in Cruise's espionage caper, with "Grownups" opening at No. 2 with $41 million and "Knight and Day" at No. 3, with $20.5 million for the weekend and $27.7 million since June 23.

4. "The Karate Kid," $15.4 million, $135.6 million, three weeks; 5. "The A-Team," $6 million, $62.8 million, three weeks; 6. "Get Him to the Greek," $3 million, $54.4 million, four weeks; 7. "Shrek Forever After," $2.8 million, $229.3 million, six weeks; 8. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," $2.8 million, $86.1 million, five weeks; 9. "Killers," $2 million; $44 million, four weeks; 10. "Jonah Hex," $1.6 million, $9.1 million. two weeks

Unreel: June 30, July 1, for the Fourth of July weekend:

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," MPAA Rated PG-13 (opens June 30): Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is torn between vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Meanwhile, the Cullens and the Quileute werewolves must stop an army of powerful vampires from seeking revenge on poor Bella. See, she should have tried eHarmony, instead of eGoth.

"The Last Airbender," MPAA Rated PG (opens July 1): M. Night Shyamalan, a Chester County native, filmed scenes at the Pagoda on Mount Penn, Reading and Beltzville State Park, Carbon County. Noah Ringer plays Aang, a young mystic who battles nations out to destroy his own. Also starring are Nicola Peltz as Katara and Jackson Rathbone as Sokka in the movie based on the children's television series.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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