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"Knox Goes Away" Review

There seems to be a run of movies lately riffing off the theme of the 2003 Belgian movie The Alzheimer Case (aka The Memory of a Killer) which was remade as a 2022 Liam Neeson vehicle called Memory and told the story of a hitman who was losing his faculties to Alzheimer's disease. Now there's a Russell Crowe movie hitting streaming called Sleeping Dogs about an retired police detective with Alzheimer's just in time to be compared to Knox Goes Away which stars Michael Keaton, who's also making his directorial debut, as a hitman who has.... Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, which is a fast-progressing form of dementia which is basically turbocharged Alzheimer's.

Keaton's John Knox is informed of his dire condition by his doctor and told to get his affairs in order sooner than later. He makes arrangements to liquidate his holding in stolen items and cash to distribute to a short list of recipients. While we've seen him blanking in the opening scenes, things really go south when he accidentally kills his partner (Ray McKinnon) after he whacks the target and a woman who was in the shower with him.

Confused as to what happened, he hurriedly stages the scene to make it look like the target returned fire, but he knows the setup won't withstand scrutiny for long since all the bullets will match to one gun. He's right as the lead detective investigating the case, Ikari (Suzy Nakamura), immediately wonders who turned the shower off when everyone was dead and the ballistics prove it was a single gun.

Complicating matters is the knock at the door that night from his estranged son, Miles (James Marsden), who he doesn't immediate recognize due to his condition and it's been many years since they'd spoken. Miles has a cut hand which he'd picked up when he murdered the older man who had groomed, seduced and impregnated his teen-aged daughter. Desperate, he comes to Knox since he figures someone like him who does what he does may have an idea of how to manage the situation.

 Knox then proceeds to come up with a plan to handle Myles' mess with his friend, crime boss Xavier (Al Pacino working just above phoning it in), helping to keep him on track lest he lose his mind before completing the scheme. As the plan plays out, we don't really understand what he's doing and when all the evidence instead directly implicates Miles to the point he is arrested for the murder, we're left to wonder if Knox messed up.

What makes Knox Goes Away a decent little film is the low-key manner Keaton directs the proceedings including his performance. Rather than make a splashy look-at-me-I'm-acting-and-directing-suck-it-Bradley-Cooper self-indulgent ego trip, he underplays the moments which a less confident actor may've wanted to swing for the fences. The staging and framing is unobtrusive and he gives his co-stars plenty of nice moments particularly Marcia Gay Harden as his ex-wife whom he visits one last time, telling her he's "going away", and Marsden who definitely breaks from his usual pretty boy roles (he was Cyclops in the original X-Men movies) with a raw nerve performance which actually makes him looked middle aged. (I see he's now 50, so it's about time he started looking like he's 40.)

 The script by Gregory Poirier is competent, including so quiet humorous moments to lighten the mood without turning it into a dramedy. Knox is definitely going to end up having gone away, but the trip isn't too much of a bummer. There's also a side plot about a Polish call girl, Annie (Jonanna Kulig), whose weekly visits serve as an indicator of Knox's decline and resolves in a somewhat surprising fashion.

There doesn't seem to be much market for mature stories about mature people that aren't directly targeted for Awards Season, so it's an oddity that a movie like Knox Goes Away that merely tells a quiet character story quietly exists. It's not a necessary story, but it's told well enough and won't waste your time.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.


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