Thursday, 3 May 2018

Dead By Dawn 2018: Knuckleball (2018)

If I start this review of Knuckleball by immediately telling you what I liked most about it then you may be waiting for a "but" coming. But there is no "but" coming. There is more than one "but" coming. All for the sake of me trying to not be predictable, and failing spectacularly.

So let me tell you what I liked about this simple, streamlined thriller from director Michael Peterson (who also co-wrote the script with Kevin Cockle and Jordan Scott). The central concept, and the central cast. A young boy (played by Luca Villacis) is dropped off by his parents to spend some time with his grandfather (Michael Ironside). His grandfather views this as an opportunity to both spend time with the boy and also get some work done on his property, which is as removed from most other houses as you might expect it to be. Certain things happen, the young lad has to keep himself safe from a major threat to his life, and it doesn't look as if anyone is going to be coming along soon to check on the situation.

I have never yet seen a film starring Michael Ironside that left me wishing someone else had been cast instead, so Knuckleball definitely has that going for it. There's also a fantastic performance from young Villacis, surely a name to keep your eyes peeled for in the future, and Munro Chambers has a lot of fun with his role. There aren't many others in the cast, but they all do well enough with their screentime.

The direction is solid, showing a level of confidence and cine-literacy that add to a rewarding viewing experience, but it's the cracks in the script that start to weaken the overall structure, failings that some might view as minor but that developed into big enough faults to spoil my enjoyment of the movie.

First of all, this is a potentially tense thriller that never feels as tense as it should. That's all down to the writing of the young lead (who is shown to be very smart for his age, which makes a pleasant change but also makes it almost impossible to think he'll ever be truly outmaneuvered) and the writing of the main baddie (who is far too dumb).

Second, there are a couple of reveals that seem to have been set up in a way that should surprise viewers. They don't. They just happen, many viewers will shrug as they see something extra about details that already made them suspicious, and the film then moves forward.

These two criticisms may not seem like any big deal, and I am sure there are others who will enjoy Knuckleball more than I did, but they're enough to drag down what could have been a tight and vicious little thriller. Which leaves us with a limp, tame, sketch of what could have been. It's still a decent watch BUT it could have been so much better.


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