Combustible Celluloid Review - Knox Goes Away (2024), Gregory Poirier, Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton, Al Pacino, Marcia Gay Harden, James Marsden, Suzy Nakamura, John Hoogenakker, Joanna Kulig, Ray Mckinnon, Lela Loren
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With: Michael Keaton, Al Pacino, Marcia Gay Harden, James Marsden, Suzy Nakamura, John Hoogenakker, Joanna Kulig, Ray Mckinnon, Lela Loren
Written by: Gregory Poirier
Directed by: Michael Keaton
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 115
Date: 03/15/2024

Knox Goes Away (2024)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Loose Ends

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Michael Keaton's second directorial effort, Knox Goes Away is both a quietly touching human drama and a tense, race-against-time thriller, confident and clever, and filled with fine, subtle performances.

John Knox (Michael Keaton) is a professional killer, a man with Army special ops experience and with two PhDs. Lately he has been blanking on things, losing words. So he goes for a checkup and receives an alarming diagnosis: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rapid neurodegenerative disorder. It's only a matter of weeks before Knox forgets everything he ever knew.

He goes on one final job with his colleague Tommy Muncie (Ray McKinnon), but he blanks during the job and things go badly awry. He begins getting his affairs in order, cashing out his assets and laundering the money so that he can leave it to three special people. Unfortunately, the assets are hidden everywhere, and he must gather them all, soon.

At the same time, he receives a knock on his door from his estranged son, Miles (James Marsden). His daughter, Knox's granddaughter, has become involved with a much older man, a neo-Nazi, that she met online, and is now pregnant. Miles went to the man's house and killed him in cold blood, and now needs Knox's help. Can Knox pull off these tasks before his memory leaves him for good?

Keaton's directorial debut, The Merry Gentleman (2009), also found him playing a professional killer, although that movie and Knox Goes Away are not linked.

Keaton has an elegant touch, often settling on small details. It begins with an overhead shot of a man's hands gathering his things, keys, wallet, phone, notepad, etc., walking away and forgetting his watch, then coming back to retrieve it.

Conversations in the movie are soft-spoken, natural, as if all these characters had known each other for years. Knox and Muncie's argument about whether they should know who their targets are, is forever fascinating. A meeting with his ex-wife (Marcia Gay Harden) is gently touching, and phone calls to an old pal, professional thief Xavier (Al Pacino), are likewise.

Best of all is Suzy Nakamura as the sharp, prickly police detective Emily Ikari, who is just two steps away from figuring out Knox's plans.

But Keaton is just as good at telling this three-pronged story, finding tense ways of showing his hunt for the money and jewels. (A trip to a remote cabin is a real nail-biter.) He's good with visuals, and, like any good actor-director, he knows how to use his own persona and screen presence to great effect.

There are a few quibbles of logic — Knox's plan to clear his son's name requires that the police would take extra time to re-examine evidence — but, all in all, Knox Goes Away is an excellent movie, making us wish that Keaton could direct more often.

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