Knuckledust REVIEW – Some Good Punches, But Misses The Mark

Knuckledust makes no secret that it is a ridiculous action movie.


One thing about beat ’em up films is that they’re predictable: there’s a big gig involving illegal martial arts fights, people beat the snot out of each other, and the good guy goes home with the trophy.

Knuckledust by James Kermack is no different. The main character Hard Eight (Moe Dunford) is an ex-military fighter helping authorities bust an underground fight club, the villain Serena (Camille Rowe) is a sinister individual who watches fights for sadistic pleasure, and the remainder of the cast serve as cheesy filler until the next round of punches.

Knuckledust makes no secret that it is a ridiculous action movie, but the creators create fun despite the typical formula. It pays off during the first half of the film, but unfortunately, it loses track of its own pacing during the latter half.

Knuckledust is told in a non-linear form. The story frequently jumps from past to present, but it doesn’t get too disorienting. The present moment pits Hard Eight in an interrogation room. The film’s more serious moments arise as we learn of Hard Eight’s past and the obstacles he must face to bring down the underground fight club. However, in reverting to the past, Knuckledust throws in several well-placed humorous moments to keep the film from getting too monotonous, be it two assassins playing slaps or a SWAT team unable to break into a target house because someone forgot the battering ram.

Knuckledust also has a share of humane moments that keep the characters from becoming caricatures and stereotypes. At one point, Hard Eight is seated across from a deaf and mute henchman named Tombstone (Guillaume Delaunay). As Tombstone’s associates speak ill of him literally behind his back, Hard Eight opens up a conversation in sign language, which Tombstone gladly accepts. This creates a thoughtful dimension to the protagonist, while allowing us to bond with a smaller character in the film. Not exactly something we’d get from, say, a Sylvester Stallone or even a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

For all its feats, Knuckledust takes the biggest hit with regard to its pacing.

The first half of Knuckledust is just fine with its mixing of drama, comedy, and action. We meet the characters, major and minor, and develop a bond with them easily. There’s also a lot of fun twists and turns that keep us hooked even though we know how the film is going to end.

It’s during the second half, where the audience learns the “truth” of everything behind the scenes, that Knuckledust loses its energy. The backstory and the exposition are interesting, but there’s too damn much of it. Somebody begins chatting about the “real reason” behind the conflict, another character does the same, and this continues until we’re left begging for a gunshot or at least a punch to break up the monotony.

Knuckledust could have easily shaved off twenty minutes of backstory and have been more effective. Unfortunately, the creators chose to leave this all in, thereby dealing Knuckledust a blow it doesn’t recover from.

No matter what, anyone who likes the great fighting classics such as Bloodsport or Mortal Kombat will appreciate where Knuckledust is going. Newcomers will have a good mesh of action, humor, and even humanity in spots. The last half of the film might wear on the senses for some, but the first half gives us just the right amount of action, humor, and even humanity to keep us tuned in until the end.

Review screener provided.

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Knuckledust is nothing original, but the creators try to serve up a fun watch. While the first half has a compelling mesh of action and humor, the second half dissolves with too much expository dialogue.