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Film: Knox Goes Away
Cast: Michael Keaton, James Marsden, Suzy Nakamura, Joanna Kulig, Ray McKinnon, John Hoogenakker, Lela Loren, Marcia Gay Harden, Al Pacino
Director: Michael Keaton
Rating: 3/5
Runtime: 114 min

Michael Keaton’s second directorial effort, “Knox Goes Away,” tackles a challenging and fascinating ‘Memento like premise. The script by Gregory Poirier is methodically and steadily built with an incrementing degree of difficulty.

John Henry Knox (Michael Keaton), with PhDs in English and History, a Gulf War veteran, and currently a contract killer, suddenly finds himself at sea. He has just been diagnosed with a fast deteriorating dementia condition.  Knox is an enigma and we don’t know much about his life other than that he has a standing appointment every Thursday with a call girl (Joanna Kulig). Then one day, while in the midst of sorting out his affairs and righting a contract killing gone wrong, his estranged son Miles (James Marsden), knocks on his front door bloody, battered, and panting. That opening for a subplot leaves a window open for a brief trip into the past. Thereafter we get to know bits and pieces of his life gone astray. He now is left with the unenviable and difficult task of not only sorting out his personal affairs but also subverting a murder investigation that might implicate his son. All this while his mind is going away on a fast trot.

Knox spends most of the film putting together a convoluted plan with ‘reminders’ from an old friend (Al Pacino). His brief meetings with son Miles and ex-wife ( Marcia Gay Harden) leave a lot to be desired. The narrative is basically entrenched in showboating the subterfuge rather than giving us a evolving character study and is the poorer for it.

The twist is expected even if not exactly predictable. We never get involved with Knox’s predicament because the film fails to put forward a cogent enough picture of it.

In fact we get to learn more about the lead detective played by Suzy Nakamura. Her sharp, observant and smart as a whip immigrant persona comes through quite effectively and overshadows the knowledge we have of the central character.  

The cinematography is not great either. It’s stark and flat and the editing is rather abrupt. The visual compositions even with mise en scene form fail to evoke the required effect. The near neo-noir stakes and grim tone only accentuate the absurdities in the narrative. The jazz score is underwhelming enough to be quickly forgotten. Your eyes may be glued to the screen because of the interesting way in which this premise plays out but the tempo and intensity keeps flagging along the way. While the film is intriguing enough as a whole (Keaton weighing in with a workmanlike performance, Pacino and Harden lending A list support) it’s entertainment value is questionable.



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