The Trouble with Quibbles: Spy vs. Spy

Now that Bryan’s third kid has arrived, it might be a bit tougher for him to get out and see new releases that we can argue about. So, we’ve decided to widen our gaze and quibble about films regardless of their release date. Also, we’ll probably group them together into similar topics. For example, today we’re taking a look at two action-comedies about spies.

In RED, Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA black-ops agent who is RED-flagged (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) by his former employer and summarily marked for death. So, he decides to assemble his old friends and fellow retired black-op agents to get to the bottom of things.

In Knight & Day, June Havens (Cameron Diaz) gets tangled in a web of intrigue when she meets Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), a charming and mildly sociopathic secret agent.

AS: Two movies that I don’t think either of us made it to in theaters. Though, I wanted to see RED for its cast, while Knight & Day just looked fun.

BP: Yeah, both of these are very similar in the overused fun spy comedy genre.

AS: I see where this is going right out of the gate. I never thought I’d see the words “overused” and “fun” next to each other in such a derogatory manner. Have you actually grown tired of the spy comedy or is more that you didn’t like either of these?

BP: It’s more that there were a remarkable amount of them last year, and yes, some of them were not very good. When you see a genre exploited to death it really starts to feel tiresome. The same thing has happened to rom-coms and is starting to happen with superhero films

AS: I thought I was the jaded one? It’s Hollywood, what do you expect? Exploitation of safe, tried and true formulas is par for the course.

BP: I think I just watched them all way too close to each other

AS: Does “them all” include something other than RED and Knight & Day? You been re-watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith?

BP: Sight unseen, The Tourist, and Salt was so absurd it might as well have been comedy. And one other I can’t think of.

AS: You saw The Tourist?

BP: Sight unseen damn you!

AS: I was about to ask what Sight Unseen was, cause that sounds like a spy movie.

BP: You’re an idiot.

AS: And The Tourist isn’t a spy movie.

BP: But, I did like RED . . . just not Knight & Day

AS: What did you like about RED?

BP: Malkovich for one. He is brilliantly unhinged

AS: He is quite funny.

BP: And for the most part the movie doesn’t take itself too serious. When it does, like when the MacGuffin and finale come to a head, it’s tiresome and not fun.

AS: I thought the whole thing dragged.

BP: A little.

AS: I just wanted them to hurry up and get to the action.

BP: The Brian Cox and Helen Mirren love stuff was unnecessary. I think Willis should have been a different actor, someone older. But you’re right, it needed more action.

AS: I liked Willis. And I like what action there is. Particularly the stuff between Willis and Karl Urban.

BP: Right. I loved the step out of moving car while shooting shot.

AS:  Yes, awesome.

BP: When someone gets hit by a rocket launcher and simply ceases to exist…funny and good action. But there wasn’t enough of it.

AS: And Helen Mirren shooting .50 cal machine gun is probably one of my favorite things to grace the big screen.

BP: But even that was a little wasted. Some of the movie was lazy like that. Here is an old person doing something old people don’t do . . . now laugh. Sometimes you need more than that. Sometimes you need a Malkovich.

AS: Basically, both the humor and the action were touch and go, coming in short, often uninspired, bursts, that ultimately left me unsatisfied.

BP: Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich. MALKOVICH!!!! I mean yes, I agree.
– Grade: B-

AS: RED is slow and not as much fun as I would have liked. Bruce Willis didn’t seem to be having nearly as much fun as Tom Cruise does in Knight & Day.
Grade: C


BP: Whoa-Whoa-Whoa . . . are you backhandedly trying to rile me up about Knight & Day . . . you sonofabitch!

AS: Yeah, and it worked.

BP: Okay, the thing about Knight & Day–and I know it was just trying to be a goofy fun riff and yes, Tom was having a blast and is solid in the movie–is that nothing in it works.

AS: It worked for me. I thought it was very fun. The perfect blend of action & comedy that RED was reaching for.

BP: Seriously? I couldn’t stand this movie.

AS: Why? It’s silly, action-packed fun.

BP: Well, there is no chemistry between Cruise and Diaz. The action was tepid and whenever it was about to get interesting someone would go unconscious, the film would fade to black and we’d find out what happened later.

AS: Tepid, really? I’m sorry, but “tepid” and Tom Cruise are antonymous. Tom Cruise oozes enthusiasm, especially during action scenes.

BP: Cruise yes, this movie no! The film had no internal logic. It’s just now we’re in Boston and now we’re on a train and now we’re on an island. Why? Cause that’s fun, right . . . audiences like fun, right . . . they want exotic locales and shit, right? But not without some miniscule amount of purpose.

AS: Stop looking for meaning in escapist fare. It’s supposed to be fun.

BP: But it wasn’t.

AS: It was for me.

BP: And I’m not a Diaz hater, but this was the most annoying she has ever been.

AS: I completely disagree.

BP: She and her character were grating.

AS: I’m not a huge fan of Diaz and I was ok with her here.

BP: Give me the same movie with no Diaz and then you’ll be halfway to a good movie.

AS: I am perfectly happy with Knight & Day the way it is. In fact, I want to watch it right now.

BP: Ugh . . . I could smell the studio notes from my TV. I’m all for fun and action and not thinking. Give me True Lies any day of the week. This was so calculated and uninspired and poorly executed that my brain wanted to escape from the movie.

AS: Knight & Day is way closer to True Lies than RED is.

BP: You take that back.

AS: Never.

BP: Maybe in plot, but not in quality.

AS: I’m talking about energy.

BP: Also, Knight & Day is a god awful title. — Grade: D

AS: Sure, Knight & Day doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it moves. And yes, it is a terrible title. At least we agree on that much. — Grade: B


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