Directed by: James Kermack
Written by: James Kermack
Starring: Moe Dunford, Kate Dickie, Camille Rowe
You don’t watch movies like Knuckledust so you can stroke your chin and impress your artiste friends. You watch them to get your blood pumping, to switch off from the world and to witness that holy union of fists and faces. This action-thriller certainly brings the punches to the table, but how many of them land?
When the police raid a secret underground fight club – Club Knuckledust - they find 7 floors filled with the bodies of dead brawlers – and one man, known only as ‘Hard Eight’ (Moe Dunford) left standing. Bringing him in for interrogation, Chief Inspector Katherine Keaton (Kate Dickie) and her team must race against the clock to get to the bottom of the bloodshed – and find out just who Hard Eight is, where the bodies have come from, and what is his connection to Serena Marcos (Camille Rowe) – the club’s shady owner.
Both thematically and plotwise, Knuckledust is a glorious, bipolar B-movie mess. It revels in the over-the-top, gratuitous violence seen in the recent Sky One series Gangs of London (a spiritual predecessor) whilst also aiming for the sharp, edgy humour found in Guy Ritchie classics like Snatch. Yet this extravagance is dropped in the hard-hitting interrogation scenes that make up much of the movie. These dramatic, tension-packed exchanges between Hard Eight and Keaton are much more serious, and feel out of place next to the genre-lampooning, parody scenes. There is nothing wrong with contrasting two tones, but unfortunately the gags are simply not up to scratch. The comedy does not match up to the strength of the drama, and feels like more of an unwelcome distraction. Knuckledust was never going to go down the straight drama route, but more time should have been spent refining the comedy for it to sit on the Mt. Ritch-more of British Gangster classics.
Director James Kermack unleashes every stereotype under the sun with a flamboyant ensemble cast. There’s the femme-fatale, the hardened ex-soldier, the unpredictable old geezer, and more meat-headed brawlers than you could throw a fist at. Any points lost for originality are made up for in execution, with fine performances from the cast – particularly Kate Dickie as Inspector Keaton. The numbers are very much painted-by, but there is something of a comfort that comes with the derivative.
Praise should be reserved for the movie’s biggest selling point – the fight scenes. The choreography and direction are fantastic, with scenes at the club feeling brutal and vicious without ever looking co-ordinated. Kermack’s homework is proudly on display, with homages to the infamous ‘Hallway’ scene of Oldboy and knowing references to a film this will inevitably be compared against – Fight Club. There is an argument that for films like Knuckledust, plot, depth of character, direction and drama can all be considered secondary to the good-old-fashioned brainless fun – and in that area the movie delivers. It is a laser-guided missile of masculine energy focused squarely on the pleasure centre of your brain.
Knuckledust is a raucous and ruthless ball of energy that promises brainless thrills and delivers on them. An overblown and unfulfilling plot, and inability to stick with a tone prevent it from being anything more. In a packed gangster genre, Knuckledust does little to stand out or reach beyond viewers already sold on its premise. But for those who are, there is enough here to entertain.
Knuckledust is available in the UK on VOD on December 11th