Today on my Twitter feed, screenwriter Geoff La Tulippe pointed out that in adjusted dollars, Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" earned $140 million when it was released. That's domestic box-office. For "Cocktail."
That's how big a movie star Tom Cruise used to be. The dirty secret about Cruise as a movie star, though, is that he is a solid character actor who works harder than anyone when he's onscreen. There are definitely Tom Cruise performances I don't like, Tom Cruise movies I don't like, but I would be hard-pressed to name many lazy Tom Cruise performances.
Watching "Knight And Day" a month after the release of "Killers," the first thing that struck me is that a side-by-side comparison of the first thirty minutes of each film is a perfect lesson in the difference between a movie star and a pretty face. They both start from a similar premise, although written in very different ways. In both, the lead actor is a spy/assassin who meets a totally normal girl and then drags her into his world. Ashton Kutcher seems focused on looking cool in his film, working as hard as he can to strike a pose like each scene in a still page in a fashion magazine. Kutcher's still working the same spoiled pout he picked up in the film "Spread," and it's sort of ridiculous.
Meanwhile, Cruise is well aware of the value of a precisely struck pose to sell an action scene, but he also seems dedicated in "Knight and Day" on deconstructing that pose and poking fun at it at the same time. It's a tricky thing to pull off, tone-wise, and if you do it wrong, you're making "Hudson Hawk." Or you're just making an action movie. More often than not, filmmakers trying for this sweet spot where you are gently ribbing the exact thing you're doing fail at it. They tip their hand in some way and the whole thing just falls apart, collapses under the weight of all the clever.