Category Archives: Archived Movies

KNOCKOUT






“Knockout” isn’t one. A direct-to-video-quality feminization
of the “Rocky” boxing formula, it’s about an East L.A. homegirl
(Sophia-Adella Hernandez), trained early in life by her boxing-
trainer (and cop) dad (Tony Plana), who takes to the ring after
the vicious champ has sent one of her buddies paralyzed to the
hospital; after getting involved with two unscrupulous
promoters (William McNamara and Paul Winfield), our curvaceous
heroine gets her shot at the title. Do you suppose she wins
despite her opponent’s underhanded tactics?

What the anemic, little picture demonstrates is that you can’t
save a tired old plot just by changing its protagonist’s gender.
But what it further confirms is that adding hackneyed elements
from other shopworn genres won’t work either. “Knockout”
doesn’t just ape “Rocky”–it adds subplots about Hernandez’s
mother dying young (of an inoperable brain tumor, no less);
about her dad trying to rescue a young kid being lured into the
drug trade (there’s a hilarious sequence in which Papa talks
the youth into putting down his gun); and about dad’s being
killed while attempting to shield that kid from a rival’s
gunfire (this allows him to appear posthumously during the
culminating bout in a brilliantly-lit vision to urge his
battered daughter on). By the time it’s over the movie comes
across as 100% cliche, and if you’ve ever seen a film before
you should be giggling uncontrollably at its absurdly serious
treatment of episodes that by rights should be in a Zucker
brothers parody.

As befits its low-budget status, “Knockout” is amateurish in
the extreme. The acting is uniformly dreadful, with McNamara,
who once seemed to have a promising career, and Winfield, who
once had a distinguished one, especially embarrassing as stock
villains tossing about names like Cassius Clay and Don King.
The central actors–Hernandez, Plana, Eduardo Yanez (as the
tongue-tied hunk who really loves the heroine) and Maria
Conchita Alonso–are all inept, but even an Olivier couldn’t
have done much with such atrociously-written dialogue and
narrative absurdities. Technically the picture is completely
low-rent stuff; the fight sequences are slow and crudely
choreographed (with inevitable slow-mo insertions), and the
“crowds” of onlookers are particularly suspicious–the
backgrounds shift into shadow after a few rows to hide the fact
that the number of extras was obviously quite limited.

So unless you’re searching for a movie so bad that it’s
actually laughable, skip this stinker. “Knockoff” is more like
it.

HANGING UP






The telephonic-themed title of Diane Keaton’s incredibly
irritating new comedy-drama makes it quite fair for one to
describe it as the cinematic equivalent of one of those calls
from a telemarker who interrupts your dinner and then won’t
take no for an answer. Shrill, sappy and sadly sitcomish,
“Hanging Up” works overtime to extract smiles and tears from
its viewers but achieves only groans and snores.

Loosely based, it would appear, on the family background of
screenwriters Delia and Nora Ephron (and on the former’s
book), the script centers on three sisters (Meg Ryan, Lisa
Kudrow and Diane Keaton) who must come to terms with the
illness of their increasingly demented (and, as flashbacks
make abundantly clear, alcoholic) father (Walter Matthau). The
sibling most directly affected is Ryan, who’s on site and must
simultaneously deal with the hospitalized old man while trying
to juggle her catering job and the needs of her family; the
other daughters, the one an actress and the other a glamorous
magazine publisher, are more distant, detached, and self-
absorbed, and communicate with the increasingly flustered Ryan
by omnipresent cell phone until they all get together for
sisterly arguments and the inevitable hugs at the end.

There may be a market for this alternately annoying and cutesy
bit of phoniness with a few viewers, but most will find it
barely tolerable. Ryan gives one of her worst performances as
put-upon Eve Marks, turning the poor woman into a twittering,
sad-sack caricature. Kudrow glides smoothly if unremarkably
through her portrayal of shallow Maddy, while Keaton seems
sadly in tune with the role of the coldly driven Georgia.
Matthau chews up the scenery as the supposedly lovable
curmudgeon Lou Mozell, who comes across as a fellow who thinks
he’s doing a perpetual Shriner’s Club roast. Adam Arkin and
Jesse James, by contrast, are nicely restrained as Ryan’s
long-suffering husband and son, and Duke Moosekian does a
pleasant turn as a physician whose car Ryan crashes into (the
“revelatory” sequence in which the doc’s mother, played by
Ann Bartolotti, advises Ryan to distance herself from her
troubles is, however, crushingly obvious and saccharine).

Maybe writing “Hanging Up” had some therapeutic value for the
Ephron sisters, but if so they might have had the good sense
to keep it to themselves and not inflict the piece on a hapless
cast and an unsuspecting audience. One can always say that
the proper response to the picture is Walking Out, but it
would be better to have a kind of cinematic Caller-ID system
in place, so that one would be warned not to answer its call
in the first place.