Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In this little movie ‘Knockout’ we are introduced to young Matthew-san (Daniel Madger) who is the new kid in town, having left his comfortable life, friends, and private school behind because his hot mom (Janet Kidder) has married some guy who has moved them to nowhere-ville USA. Now Matthew has to go to public school. Horrors. Looking at Matthew with his 1960’s era coke bottle eye glasses, conservative hair cut, soft underbelly, shrill communication skills and his penchant for wearing suits, it is clear that he’s not cut out for public school. It’s a wonder he wasn’t picked on at his private school that he was at before, but no problem because Matthew makes a few quick friends in Ruby (Emma Grabinsky) and Nick (Samuel Patrick Chu), but he also incurs the wrath of the schools resident bully / asshole in Hector (Jared Brandt Bartlett). You will be hard pressed to find a bigger movie high school asshole than Hector. Biff Tannen thinks Hector needs to bring it down a notch.

Nonetheless Matthew, a big boxing fan who drops more boxing references than Larry Merchant, tries to make the best of this bad situation. In fact, on the urging of Dan the kindly, oversized school janitor (Steve Austin), Matthew tries to join the schools boxing club. Which Hector happens to be the king of. Dang. Hector beats Matthew silly. Again.

No problem because Dan, a former professional boxer back in the day, has decided to take young Matthew under his wing and train him, as long as him mom says it’s okay. Mom really, really doesn’t like boxing. Watching mom convulse at the thought of Matthew getting in the ring was one of the more entertaining things about this movie. Regardless, this is nothing a forged signature can’t fix. Come on… who hasn’t done that at least a couple of times?

Then there’s still Hector. Just when you thought Hector had topped out his assholery, he always manages to take it up one more notch. Eventually Dan convinces the boxing club coach (Roman Padhora), the two having a bit of history behind them, to allow

Matthew to fight Hector in the school’s box off. Hector, we are told, is the best fighter in his age / weight class in the state. Matthew, we can observe, has trouble walking without breathing hard. But we’ve also observed, on numerous occasions, that the boy can take a punch. Dan the Janitor believes in Matthew and Dan has informed Matthew that Hector is just as scared as he is. Far be it for me to argue with Dan the Janitor, but I don’t think that’s true. There will be challenges, forged signatures to be exposed, a mother will convulse some more and a janitor may find this plum gig of his in some jeopardy, but all will be settled in the ring between the asshole and the fat kid.

Truly, in the history of derivative movies, it will be difficult for anyone to find a movie more derivative than ‘Knockout’. This is with the full knowledge that ‘The Karate Kid’, the sequels to ‘The Karate Kid’ and the remakes of ‘The Karate Kid’ weren’t all that original in the first place, so it’s not surprising that there is nary an original note that is played throughout this entire movie. Pretty much every step, every jab and every left hook is telegraphed long before the punch is thrown, right down to the completely predictable conclusion.

*sigh*…. So why did I enjoy this movie as much as I did? Well my friends, it is because I’m pretty much a sucker for derivative underdog sports movies. Credit has to go to director Anne Wheeler who knew full well what kind of movie she was making, understood very clearly the formula of this kind of film and instead of tricking it out or trying to show how this tried and true formula can be improved upon, the young lady instead focused on simply moving the story forward and squeezing the most she could out of her cast of actors. Take Stone Cold Steve Austin for instance. I don’t think anyone would accuse Stone Cold of being the second coming of Marlon Brando or anything, but in the few scenes he had in this movie… despite the fact his mug is all over the box cover… the man makes his presence felt in the role of Dan the Janitor and it plays well to Stone Cold’s strengths. Young Jared Brandt Bartlett might’ve overplayed it a bit as Hector the asshole, but that’s the kind of character this movie calls for and while Daniel Madger never completely sold us on the fact that he could last three rounds with anybody, much less the alleged best fighter in the state, we still brought into the fantasy of it all.

‘Knockout’ is what it is, and if let you your guard down for just a minute you will get swept up in this derivative nonsense. There’s no defense against it.

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