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.

BOILER ROOM






There’s an earnest, TV-movie quality about Ben Younger’s drama
concerning tele-brokers in a fly-by-night Wall Street firm
during the greed-filled 1990s. Giovanni Ribisi plays the
protagonist, Seth Davis, a driven young fellow (he’s already
set up a casino in his home!) who’s brought into the J.T.
Marlin company by old friend Greg (Nicky Katt). He puts his
considerable talents to work pushing worthless stock to
hapless customers under the tutelage of both Greg and his
more earthy competitor (Vin Diesel), while gradually coming to
realize the extent of the scam being run by higher-ups Michael
(Tom Everett Scott) and Jim (Ben Affleck). After confiding
his increasing misgivings to secretary Abby (Nia Long), he’s
eventually drawn into a SEC investigation of Marlin during
which his rigid, straightlaced father (Ron Rifkin) becomes
unhappily implicated.

Clearly Younger intends “Boiler Room” to be both a cautionary
tale about modern Wall Street shenanigans and the story of a
young man who finds redemption in a difficult moral situation;
but the result is too derivative (with numerous echoes of
“Wall Street” and “Glengarry Glen Ross”) and too obvious (the
final-act reconciliation between son and father, with the
former finally gaining the latter’s respect, is psychologically
thin) to wind up as more than marginally interesting. An
intercutting story about one of Seth’s clients, a woebegone
fellow named Harry (Taylor Nichols) whose deteriorating family
life we’re periodically shown (and whom the young broker
eventually takes pity upon), is especially weak; presumably
the character is suppposed to stand for all the hapless suckers
ruined by the firm’s underhanded practices, but he’s just too
melodramatic a contrivance to generate much sympathy.

Still, there are plusses here. Ribisi does an energetic turn
as the conflicted hero, and his interracial romance with Long
has a nicely understated quality. Diesel is powerful as the
bulldog-like Chris, and Affleck has some winning moments as
the firm’s drill sergeant; his riffs may be closely patterned
after Alec Baldwin’s cameo in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but he
pulls them off with surprising aplomb.

Ultimately, though, “Boiler Room” has a cut-rate feel to it,
rather like the company whose workings it portrays.