What Knuckledust lacks in a complex storyline, it makes up for in action-packed-mayhem. It is a blood bath soaked in sarcasm, cheeky one-liners, and an array of eccentric characters. The revenge cinema wheel is not being reinvented here with a plot that’s simple and straightforward–a seedy crime organization that extends higher up that we can know kills a loved one of the formidable protagonist and a rampage ensues. Like I said, pretty straightforward but this is where things get good.
Former soldier Roy aka ‘Hard Eight’ (Moe Dunford) has been brought in for questioning for his alleged involvement in a mass murder at the mysterious Knuckledust Club. Police find an underground fight club of sorts that uses homeless veterans as their prizefighters. With almost everyone in the club murdered and only Roy left standing it is up to Chief Inspector Keaton (Kate Dickie) and her law enforcement team to discover Roy’s culpability as well as the whereabouts of Serena Marcos–the face of Knuckledust.
Knuckledust is a glorious homage to the revenge movie. It has all the primitive elements that make an action movie great: killer fight sequences, gratuitous violence, quirky side characters, quippy one-liners, and a body count that extends well into double digits. I felt like I was watching a very violent Scott Pilgrim vs. The World meets Fight Club and I mean that in a very positive way. The fight sequences were a definite joy to watch. The ‘favorite fight scene’ award goes to the scene when Roy takes on and destroys a herd of gimps assembled to take him down. This is but one of many over the top, almost satirical battle sequences that take place. But make no mistake… their satirical nature does not take away from the gorgeous choreography taking place. Seriously it was like really violent ballet and I loved it.
The film bounces back and forth between a present interrogation being conducted by Chief Inspector Keaton (Dickie) and the past events recalled by Roy (Dunford). The interrogation scene served its purpose by pushing the story forward but was no match for the action-packed flashback fight sequences. The pacing between dramatic interrogation and comedic fighting needed work, but there was enough happening to hold my attention as I anxiously awaited the next flashback.
Knuckledust covered an extensive array of characters and it was cast beautifully. Dunford serves as a delightfully strong anchor to the film with his portrayal of Roy. Though not the most humorous performance, he nails the ‘anti-hero with a complicated past who has set out to right the world’s wrongs’ trope. My favorite element of this film is the absolutely bonkers list of side characters. Dave Bibby plays Hooper, an uncoordinated pencil-pushing cop who is more than meets the eye, and he definitely was my favorite character. Bibby shows impressively believable range, pinballing between the roles of villain, hero, and nerdy sidekick.
Though there are some pacing and story issues, overall this is a simple story with a simple mission: to kick some ass, take some names, and entertain audiences. I say Knuckledust did all three. So if you’re looking for an action film heavy on the violence and light on the intricate artsy plot design look no further!
7 out of 10