Tropic Sprockets / Knox Goes Away

By Ian Brockway

Actor Michael Keaton scores with a winning seat in the director’s chair in “Knox Goes Away,” a tense and knotty thriller. [Showtimes at Tropiccinema.com.] This is a film where nothing is as it appears in a very genuine and sincere way, and the audience is ensnared from the start.

Knox (Michael Keaton) is a reticent and regulated man. He is a paid assassin. Lately, he realizes that he is becoming irritable and forgetting things. Knox tells his partner Muncie (Ray McKinnon) that after his next assignment, he will be going away for a while. Muncie doesn’t know what to say but humors him.

During the assignment, Knox becomes anxious and confused. He kills his target, but accidentally kills Muncie during his minutes of disorientation. He is shocked and depressed but quickly snaps back to himself, making the assignment seem like a murder-suicide. A short time later, Knox goes to a doctor appointment and learns that he has an aggressive form of dementia known as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Knox is told he has about a month, and he begins to make final plans, telling people that he is “going away.”

A detective (Suzy Nakamura) becomes suspicious about the crime scene, noting that there were five bullets discharged for three victims. She becomes increasingly vexed throughout the film.

To complicate matters, Knox’s estranged son, Miles (James Marsden) comes to the door unannounced and bloody, saying that he has just killed somebody, the body in question being Miles’s daughter’s 35-year-old lover. Knox tells Miles to calm himself, assuring Miles that he will handle the dead body.

Knox is also dating an escort (Joanna Kulig ) who is both curious and concerned about him.

The tension and intrigue in the film is in the mystery of Knox’s behavior. Under the physical stress of dementia is Knox going to crumble or rise to the fore for one last stand?

No one character is completely good and without blame. Knox is a true antihero. On the downside, the film almost becomes too twisting with its multiple spins and turnabouts in motivation. The film is almost a kind of “Memento” for Patricia Highsmith fans. Aside from a slight reservation of a quivering James Marsden chewing the scenery (and the fetishist use of spilled blood), Micheal Keaton gives a perfect performance as an existential man under great physical wear and strain. One vividly feels his silent panic, Keaton wears his fear like a tangible mask of plastic, and it shows on his face only to vanish within seconds at times. He is a mercurial menace.

Even Knox’s eerie moments of dementia feel as if they are a matter of course. This is the real intrigue of the film: the guessing which of Knox’s behaviors are due to his illness and which are all part of his final plan.

There is a fine sense of haunt in the film’s last moments, but one might wish for a bit more of an enigmatic finish.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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