TIFF23: “KNOX GOES AWAY” REVIEW
By David Baldwin
John Knox (Michael Keaton) is a hitman. He is cold, calculated, brilliant and also happens to have just been diagnosed with a very fast-moving form of dementia. With only weeks of lucidity left and frequent blackout spells, Knox must get his house in order and make amends before it is too late. And with the cops on his tail after a hit gone bad and his estranged son Miles (James Marsden) knocking at his door after a particularly bloody incident, things are not going to be easy for Knox.
KNOX GOES AWAY is a movie tailor-made for Boomer Dads. There are elements of neo-noir, remorse, redemption, dark humour and a handful of really violent death scenes. It checks all the boxes. Sadly though, Keaton’s direction (his second effort after 2008’s The Merry Gentleman) is nothing extraordinary. He has a bad habit of slamming to black between scenes rather than have proper transitions, the camera effects when Knox is going through a dementia episode are odd and there is no real auteurship or unique identifiers on display. Additionally, the overly elaborate plan that is the crux of the Film is extremely messy and does not help make the story any less muddy.
Keaton’s acting on the other hand is fantastic. The way his eyes and body language convey Knox’s sense of distress and confusion is terrific, as are the dialogue slips when he forgets anything and the cool precision he uses for when he does not. Keaton has always been reliable and this is easily one of his best performances – and certainly will wash away any ill feelings you may have had after watching him in The Flash earlier this summer. Marsden makes a valiant effort as Miles and Al Pacino does fine whenever he pops up in the small but pivotal role of Knox’s friend Xavier. Further down the line, Joanna Kulig is quietly impactful as the sex worker Knox spends time with every Thursday, and Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden devastates in her brief role as Knox’s ex.
Referring to one particular dead character, Keaton and Marsden both say “I would dig him up and kill him again” if they had the chance. Both times I felt that deep in my bones and wish the rest of the Film would have given me the same visceral reaction.
KNOX GOES AWAY screens at TIFF ’23:
Sunday, September 10 at 9:45 PM at Princess of Wales Theatre
Monday, September 11 at 5:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall