Director: James Kermack
Script: James Kermack
Cast: Moe Dunford, Kate Dickie, Gethin Anthony, Sebastian Foucan, Chris Patrick-Simpson, Guillaume Delaunay, Alex Ferns, Phil Davis
Running time: 105.5 minutes
Knuckledust, a UK/French production, is a weird hybrid mix of genres including action, thriller, crime caper and maybe even a parody. Whatever it is it’s somewhat confusing and I’m not sure who the film is actually aimed at. The film’s cool trailer makes it look like it’s going to be a tournament film, ala AWOL, Bloodsport, etc. with hints of Oldboy levels of weirdness, but this most certainly isn’t the case. There are also nods to the likes of Fight Club and the writer has obviously been influenced by the directors Quentin Tarantino and Guy Richie, and there’s nothing wrong in that. However, this mish-mash of a movie promises so much more than it actually delivers, which is a shame as it’s full of good ideas, they’re just not well executed.
When a special police task force kicks open the doors of elite underground fight den – at the seedier end of The Church of Herad (weird name for what appears to be some kind of hotel!), they find dead bodies all over the place, many cut into pieces, with any identifying features erased. Only one man, badly beaten, is still alive; his fight-handle: Hard Eight. With a shady government official – the man’s military colonel, no less – en route to take him away, Chief Inspector Katherine Keaton and her team find themselves with very little time to get to the bottom of what has been happening and to ascertain if Hard Eight is the lone survivor victim that he claims to be or a multiple murderer. With lies flying from everyone’s mouths and widespread institutional corruption quickly becoming apparent, Inspector Keaton starts to wonder “WTF?”, but so will the viewer…
With so many good things going for it – a mostly competent cast, a DoP who clearly knows the right end of a camera, some cool locations and some solid action choreography, Knuckledust is a frustrating watch. Just when the viewer (well, this reviewer, at least) gets a grasp on what a specific scene is all about, new characters appear out of nowhere and the plot takes another twist or turn, which confuses rather than impresses.
If director/writer James Kermack had put as much thought into how the film might be plotted out, edited and eventually play out, rather than focus on the whole look and ‘feel’ of his film, I think he might have pulled off something unique and special, but sadly Knuckledust is a missed opportunity.
Kermack has clearly gone for a particular ‘look’ for his film – the use of certain colours (yellow and red) is over-done (along with sickly, smoky lighting), and the over-bearing soundtrack detracts from what is being said and doesn’t seem to fit with most of the scenes it accompanies, and is too loud for the dialogue to be easily heard – a particular bugbear of mine!. And, even the title, Knuckledust, which leads one to think of this being a fight film, or at least one that will end in a barnstorming dust-up of one kind or another, turns out, like so many threads within the film, to be only a tease with little in the way of a satisfying payoff. The film also clearly doesn’t really want to end as it piles on at least three endings! And, probably the one most important element that the movie lacks is a sympathetic character; none of them are particular relatable to the audience.
Knuckledust is being released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and is currently available online to watch.