Review: Keaton directs, stars in solid action-thriller ‘Knox Goes Away’

Michael Keaton in Knox Goes Away (Courtesy Brookstreet Pictures)

Micheal Keaton’s sophomore directing effort “Knox Goes Away” is a solid but downbeat thriller that drives home the point that even when you win, ultimately in this life you lose.

The film poses the question how would a highly-trained, uncommonly intelligent, and remarkably proficient contract killer deal with the fact that he is rapidly losing all his skills because of an aggressive form of dementia.

Keaton directs himself as John Knox, the military man turned hit man, who is dealing with this reality. Complicating matters is the return of his estranged son, Miles, (James Marsden), who has gotten himself into serious trouble and needs his father to use his “certain set of skills” to bale him out.

At his peak, Keaton’s Knox would have no trouble in either helping his son or allowing him to pay fully for his transgressions, but with his deteriorating mental state, even the mundane has become complicated for the measured-thinking Knox.

Knox calls upon the help of a shady associate from his past, Xavier, (Al Pacino) and a sex worker (Joanna Kulig), whom he frequents, to help him accomplish his plan. However, are they there to help him or to take advantage of him and his disability?

Like Keaton’s character, the movie is meticulously paced and never in a hurry. The film breathes as Knox negotiates his way through his plan and deals with the ticking clock of his memory loss.

Pacino adds zest to the film with his presence. Marsden is also very good as Knox’s pathetic son, but Keaton is the star, and his charisma does not fail him. He’s appealing even while playing a killer, who is quite literally losing his mind.

Suzy Nakamura and John Hoogenakker add solid support as the police detectives that are making life hard on Keaton’s character.

The pacing of the film might trouble some viewers as it methodically trods through the somewhat convoluted plot, but Keaton’s performance keeps the film interesting throughout.

The movie isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch. It’s a B-type movie that just happens to feature a couple of A-level performances.

If you are a fan of Keaton’s, I’d definitely suggest seeing it at some point, but this is the type of film that would be just as enjoyable at home as in a theater.

(R) 1 hr. 54 min.
Grade: B-

New in Local Theaters – March 15, 2024

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Classic Corner – Julius Caesar

Today is March 15, also known as the Ides of March. In the ancient past it held significance as a religious holiday as well as a time when all debts should be settled.

It’s probably best remembered by most history or William Shakespeare buffs as the day of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC.

In the film adaptation of the Shakespeare play, Marlin Brando plays the role of Mark Antony. Though Brando had won a great degree of notoriety and popularity for starring roles in “A Streetcar Named Desire” from 1951 and “The Wild One” also from 1953, he was appreciated more for his physical presence rather than his acting ability at the time.

However, that all changed with his performance as one of the play’s key characters who was key in bringing down the conspirators who assassinated Caesar.

Brando gave not only a formidable performance but also a masterful one that began to build his reputation as one of the screen’s best actors.

Brando consulted with co-star Sir John Gielgud for acting tips on playing the part. Gielgud played the conniving Cassius in the film, but he made his name on the London stage playing Mark Antony in the 1930s at the Old Vic Theatre.

Brando reportedly made the most of those tips, surprising his co-stars and his director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

James Mason, who played Brutus, reportedly was quite concerned about Brando upstaging him, and requested his part be played up and Brando’s down.

Brando nearly walked away from the part because of the strife with Mason, but Mankiewicz somehow coaxed the two temperamental stars to get over their differences for the sake of the movie, which is generally considered the best film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.

The movie can be streamed on a number of platforms, including YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.