Home Video Hovel- Knockdown, by Jack Fleischer
Knockdown is a direct to DVD feature that offers to hold your attention for its 90-minute runtime but not much else. The budget is low, but well managed. The direction is fine, but distracting at times. The performances are sincere, but not great. Even the “special features,” just scene selection and a trailer, are bland. This is one of those films that might interest you if you happen upon it, but it never quite rises to greatness.
The plot is simple. An up and coming St. Louis boxer crosses a mob boss. He flees to Bangkok, and gets mixed up in the local culture. After a few years, a mysterious stranger suddenly appears. A stranger who seems to know a lot about the boxer’s past. Told mostly through flashback, there are a few turns in the story, but nothing particularly sharp.
For all of the flick’s familiar territory, the characters do occasionally rise above cliché. Playing “Jack Stemmons,” Casey T. Evans appears here in his first lead role. His dedication is obvious, as he (according to imdb) put on 100lbs to play the “washed up” version of the boxer. The difference between svelte and haggard Stemmons is impressive. While I’m no expert on these things, it certainly looks like real weight gain. Dedication aside, Evans never reaches a level of subtlety and nuance with his character. On the other hand it does looks like he knows how to box. In the movie’s big fight scene, he appears to handle himself quite nicely, and it was an enjoyable fight to watch. Perhaps I only feel this way because of the direction, or maybe because imdb reports that this was an actual fight filmed for the flick.
Nick Faltas, a TV character actor known for assorted “middle eastern” roles, may be one of the best parts of Knockdown. As “Marcus,” the man who shows up from Jack’s past, he manages to be both creepy and kind of mesmerizing. Another fascinating actor is Sumonta Muangthai as “Saranya.” This is her first film role, possibly her first acting role, and she plays a significant love interest. She isn’t particularly glamorous, but she has an innocent charm that was fun to watch
Of course the headline actors are Bai Ling and Tom Arnold. While their characters involve key plot elements, neither is on screen for more than a few minutes. Watching Arnold in a terse scene opposite Faltas was enjoyable, and yes, you do see some of Bai Ling’s breasts – so the high points are hit.
This appears to be director Todd Bellanca’s first film, and all things considered, it shows good effort if not expertise. This film has low production values, yet there is a low-rez charm to it. The music too feels like a Sam’s Club Cola knock off version of certain pop hits. Unfortunately the movie does suffer sometimes due to an over abundance of Tony Scott style video effects.
Originally associated with the titles The Bad Penny and Bangkok Bound before getting this direct to DVD release, Knockdown is true low budget filmmaking. Much like folk art, its charm far outweighs its skill, but there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.