Movie vs. Movie: Killers vs. Knight and Day
By Reagen Sulewski
May 31, 2010
A high-strung woman meets up with an exciting and mysterious man, who is eventually revealed to be a spy. As she’s drafted into his life and takes part in the spy life through a series of wild adventures, she finds herself becoming a natural. If we’re talking summer movies, this can only be Killers…or Knight and Day.
It’s time again for Movie vs. Movie, where we pit two suspiciously similar looking films (think Armageddon vs. Deep Impact, A Bug’s Life vs. Antz) against each other to determine a champion for your viewing dollar. The two comedy-action spy thrillers just seem far too similar to not be compared.
No other film in recent memory seems to understand the relationship between its star and the public as well as Knight and Day. Tom Cruise plays an unhinged spy who ingratiates himself into the life of a stranger with the intent of saving her. Be honest – this is pretty much exactly what you think Tom Cruise is like. Ever since Cruise jumped the couch, he’s gone from the world’s biggest superstar to a divisive figure. Knight and Day seems to be saying, "if you can’t beat them, join them."
Killers has Ashton Kutcher as its spy figure. Although he’s come a long way since That 70’s Show, he's at the top of no one’s list of Most Likely to Be an International Super-Spy. He is, perhaps, the comedy version of Brad Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but there’s still a large hurdle to jump over for acceptance. For ingenious casting, we have to go with Knight and Day.
Cameron Diaz’s career is perhaps the definition of up and down. Starting out by stealing her scenes in The Mask and My Best Friend’s Wedding, she’s also appeared in some of the largest bombs in recent cinematic history, like A Life Less Ordinary and The Box. With the Shrek series seemingly done, she’s not going to have that easy paycheck to fall back on and needs Knight and Day to be a hit. Her manic energy might be right for the role, but her script choices of late have been suspect, which lends a bit of a pall to this.
Katherine Heigl is basically ten-years-ago Cameron Diaz in terms of stardom, though Heigl has gotten a head start on the whole alieniating-yourself-out-of-jobs thing, managing to complain her way off one of the biggest shows on TV. Good job, Caruso. She also managed to bite the hand that fed her a movie career, basically spitting in the face of Judd Apatow over Knocked Up. See if he does you any more favors. The Ugly Truth and 27 Dresses were both awful and successful, proving that there is still a contingent of fans out there for Heigl, but perhaps not for long. Based on recent history, I have to just barely give the edge to Killers.
Neither of these films feels like it’s operating on the auteur theory, so the relevance here is mostly about whether you think the film’s action sequences will be ably handled. Robert Luketic directs Killers, his second straight connection with Heigl (and he thoroughly embarrasses her in it – so much for that criticism of Apatow) after The Ugly Truth, which doesn’t scream action, and neither do the rest of his films, which include 21, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, Legally Blonde and the hall-of-fame worthy titled Titsiana Booberini. Judging from actual scenes in the trailer, we’ve mostly got random flashes of action that don’t appear to be all the special.
James Mangold helms Knight and Day, with notable credits including Walk the Line, Copland, and most relevantly, the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which was one of the superior modern westerns. Not to mention that the scene where Cruise flies off a motorcycle onto a moving car makes me laugh every damn time. Clear advantage here for Knight and Day.
Comedy lives and dies based on the script. Knight and Day’s screenwriter offers no clues as to its quality, with this being his only feature credit. He does appear to be some type protégé of John Cusack, having appeared in Tapeheads, Say Anything and Grosse Pointe Blank as an actor, so hopefully he’s learned something.
Bob DeRosa, credited with the story and a screenwriting credit on Killers is also something of a blank slate, but his writing partner Ted Griffin has significantly better credits, with his name on the Ocean’s Eleven remake, Matchstick Men and Ravenous. He's also responsible for the “better in theory than execution, I mean way better” Rumor Has It. Just by virtue of having anything to his name, Griffin earns a point here for Killers.
Despite being the second of the two films to be released, Knight and Day got off to an earlier start with its trailer, a fantastically composed piece of cinema capped with the line, “If you try anything, I’ll kill myself and then her.” Okay, I’m hooked. Then comes the news that reshoots were happening for the film as recently as April, which isn’t disastrous, but leads one to believe that things weren’t testing so great in the film itself.
However, would you rather be Killers, which has pulled the plug on public screening, basically a tacit admission that the film sucks? I think not. This is the biggest budget summer movie to not hold screenings since G.I. Joe, an altogether depressing film to keep company with. Knight and Day scores an easy point here, and if there hadn’t been some tiny questions about those reshoots, this would score double.
Special half point category for Title
Knight and Day, while kind of a lame pun, smacks the crap out of the generic and completely unrevealing Killers. I mean, really. Did you guys stay up all night on that one?
Final Verdict: A closer result than one might think, but ultimately it’s a 3.5 to 2 win for Knight and Day.