“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