Review: ‘Knox Goes Away’

Michael Keaton Is a Hitman Struggling With Dementia… Who Has One Last Job To Do

What is it with films featuring aging hitmen who have to pull one last job so they can have a shot at redemption? Are we about to create a new genre? Last year Pierce Brosnan shined in Fast Charlie where is was a hitman who gets his Sterling Archer “Terms of En-Rampagement” on as he gets justice for his friends. This year everyone’s favorite Batman Michael Keaton is a seasoned hitman who learns he has a mental health challenge, just as he must do one last thing to right his wrongs in Knox Goes Away.

John Knox (Keaton) is a complex hitman who is all about his business. He doesn’t even care to know the details of his targets, because as far as he’s concerned, they’ll be dead soon anyway. However, just before he pulls a job to kill a sex trafficker, he feels a little “off.” After consulting with a doctor, he learns that he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is an aggressive form of dementia, and his doctor says he doesn’t even have years or even months, he has weeks before everything falls apart around him. And later on, when he and his partner (Ray McKinnon) he has his first spout of confusion where he ends up murdering his colleague after they carry out the hit.

Being a professional, he massages the crime scene to avoid any accountability, but his problems are just starting. When he arrives home, he is greeted by his estranged son Miles (James Marsden) who is crying with blood-soaked on his clothes and a cut on his hand. Miles just found out his 15-year-old daughter (and John’s granddaughter) was raped by a White Supremacist sex predator and was pregnant. In a rage, Miles confronted the guy, and it ended with Miles brutally murdering the pedophile. Miles is a true professional, so he helps his son remove evidence to try and clear any suspicion.

Hot on the trail is the police led by Detective Emily Ikari (Suzy Nakamura) who playfully banters with her colleague Detective Rale (John Hoogenakker) who investigating the murder of the sex trafficker as well as the White Supremacist and she starts to connect the dots as sees John Knox as the glue between both cases. However, upon questioning, John is stone-cold and Detective Ikari’s only evidence is coincidence. Knowing that his mind is starting to unravel and he’s losing time and forgetting things that happened only a few days ago, he realizes he has one chance to enact a plan that can help clear his son as well as give his loved ones including his ex-wife (Marcia Gay Harden) and a sex worker (Joanna Kulig) he is fond of a going away present before time runs out for him. He enlists the help of his friend and mentor Xavier Crane (Al Pacino) to help him set up all the pieces to enact his going away present.

Kox Goes Away has plenty of twists a turns as things continue to develop for John throughout the film with a few surprises as well as some great performances across the board, especially by Keaton (who is pulling double duty as Knox Goes Away is the first film he’s directing in 15 years) and James Marsden. Al Pacino doesn’t get to do much as he spends almost the entire film just being on the phone with John and helping him behind the scenes. The film has great quick-cut moments that place the audience in John’s headspace, and it is an effective disorientation. However, unfortunately, these moments aren’t entirely consistent and almost happen almost a little too coincidental to generate artificial conflict.

Knox Goes Away is an aptly named film as it has a double meaning related to John’s mental health condition, but also his racing against the clock so that he can “go away” in peace. Keaton’s performance, the writing, and directing all work in the film’s favor as you get to spend the whole film wondering how it will all come together entertainingly and satisfyingly, which it absolutely does!

Knox Goes Away is currently available on VOD.