Review: Knox Goes Away


“Put it on the … the … the thing over there … you know.”

How many times has something like that happened to you? You need a common, everyday word and it just wont come. Then the person you’re talking to says “counter?” and of course you knew that! It happens to me all the time, as it does to those of us “of a certain age.”

But for a small percent of people, that is only the beginning of an inevitable slide into dementia. For some it is slow, for others fast. For Knox (Michael Keaton), it is precipitous. For years, he has lived alone, with a once-a-week housecall from a Polish call girl, Annie (Joanna Kulig), his only emotional connection. And for good reason: he is a hitman; a professional killer. It has resulted in the end of his marriage to Ruby (Marcia Gay Harden), and estrangement from his only son, Miles (James Marsden). He does have a “business” partner, Thomas Muncie (Ray McKinnon), with whom he carries out his assignments, and in his last one he accidently kills Muncie, along with his target and an innocent woman. Due to his deterioriating mind, he doesn’t even recall shooting his partner.

Knowing the police will track him down, Knox decides to “go away.” That means liquidating his savings in cash and art, and arranging for the money to be split three ways. And quickly, because according to his surprisingly detached doctor, his mind will be gone in a matter of weeks.

But then one evening, his son shows up at the door, blood on his clothing. He’s killed a man who raped his daughter, and now Knox must work to somehow save his son from prison. He devises a plan, and enlists the aid of his mentor in the hitman business, Xavier Crane (Al Pacino), to help him remember the steps he’s laid out, but which we as viewers never see.

This may sound like a typical hitman movie with a twist, but it is much more than that. Every performance is perfect, every emotion (and aside from Knox there are plenty) realistically expressed. Keaton himself expresses both the stoic acceptance of his fate, his growing confusion as his brain slips further from his control, and his iron determination to carry through with this one last assignment. All with limited dialogue but eloquent expressions.

This is Keaton’s second outing as a director (“The Merry Gentleman” – in which Keaton also plays a killer) and he does an excellent job of drawing superior performances from all his players. Of course, the intelligent and at times witty script by Gregory Poirier (“Awake”) helps. This is especially evident in the sarcastic Det. Emily Ikari, who is slowing putting together all the pieces while Knox is losing his.

This is a small film, but an excellent one, with the participants at the top of their game. The almost two hour runtime went past without us even realizing it – the piece was so engrossing. The melancholy trumpet of the musical score might cue you to this being a noir film, but the crime angle, while important, and there are multiple deaths, is not the primary focus. This is a film about choices made, chances lost, and ultimate redemption. And made all the more poignant when you know Knox won’t remember any of it.

Runtime: One hour, 54 minutes
Availability: In theaters now

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