Michael Keaton’s Directorial Debut Knox Goes Away Goes Terribly Wrong

Knox Goes Away features Michael Keaton as a freelance assassin.
Michael Keaton’s Directorial Debut Knox Goes Away Goes Terribly Wrong

Michael Keaton’s Directorial Debut Knox Goes Away Goes Terribly Wrong

One of the finest American actors Michael Keaton—think Pacific Heights (1990), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), The Paper (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), The Other Guys (2010), The Birdman (2014), don’t think Batman—has now arrived at that career-changing Moment Of Madness that hits most geniuses of the art world.
Remember that unfortunate moment when Naseeruddin Shah decided to turn director with Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota in 2006? Keaton’s Knox Goes Away is as ob-Knox-ious, if not more. What’s worse, is how dull a film so leaden with incidents has turned out to be. It is almost as though a death wish had suddenly struck this brilliant actor.
Knox Goes Away features Michael Keaton as a freelance assassin (good job!) who gets to know he suffers from a rare type of dementia: Russell Crowe did the same fading-memory routine in Cold Blooded just the other week, albeit from the opposite end of the yellow tape.
While Crowe losing his mind was awful enough, Keaton steering himself through a screenplay(Gregory Poirier) that, well, sucks, and sucks the marrow out of the actor-director’s skills, is caught in a murderous mess. He plays John Knox a hitman and a hate man. Knox seems estranged from everyone around him, including his wife (Marcia Gay Harden, in a life-saving cameo) and son James (Miles Knox). Even his relationship with his mistress (Joanna Kulig) is at best, tenuous. They meet each week at an appointed time. They f…k. Nothing here.
The wife, sadly, is dismissed w in one sequence where Marcia Gay Harden demonstrates more control than the entire film. The narrative goes all over the place seeking to justify its existence.
At the end of the ordeal I couldn’t find one reason to watch the film, not even Keaton whose Knox seems distracted and unfocussed, and I don’t think it’s because of the dementia. Maybe Keaton took on more than he could chew. Would a more experienced director have made more sense out of the chaotic script which tries to be both a crime thriller and a redemptive drama, and fails to be either?
The dramatic core, if we may call it that, is the father-son conflict. Keaton and James Marden play the estranged twosome with a debilitating detachment. Not for a second does their reconciliation, tentative as it is, feel authentic.
John Knock’s son Miles shows up at his dad’s doorstep asking him to clean up after Miles murders the man who rapes Miles’ daughter. John Knocks who must have murdered many innocent people during his heydays, has no qualms about bailing his son out of this one.
It’s a solid premise for a crime drama. The execution is so tepid, that we lose all interest in whether Knox will be able to reconcile with his splintered family, whether he really wants to help his sullen son, or whether the finale will have any surprises. Even a wickedly twinkle-eyed supporting role by Al Pacino as Knox’s former colleague cannot stop us from wishing that like Knox, this film would just go away.
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