Knuckleball review: Get ready for a very grown-up version of Home Alone in the snow-set home invasion thriller.
Knuckleball review by Kat Hughes.
Michael Ironside is a cult screen legend. He’s starred in some of the best genre films, our personal favourite being Starship Troopers. He’s so beloved that this year, as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival programme, he has his own ‘in conversation with’. He also brings his latest acting venture, Knuckleball, to the Canadian masses.
In Knuckleball, Ironside stars as Jacob, a reclusive old man estranged from his daughter Mary (Kathryn Munroe) and grandson Henry (Luca Villacis). After a death of a close friend, Mary has no choice but to ask Jacob to look after Henry so that she can attend the funeral. Once together, grandfather and grandson start to rebuild their relationship, bonding over baseball. This reunion soon comes to an abrupt end however, as creepy next-door neighbour Dixon (Munro Chambers) has other plans for the pair.
As much as we love Michael Ironside, Knuckleball belongs to Luca Villacis. The young but extremely talented actor holds the film together perfectly and proves that child characters can be as cunning as adults. Henry is like the uber-violent, grown-up version of Kevin McCallister. He too is all about the traps, but whereas in Home Alone their outcome was comedic (if not quite cruel), here we see the true repercussions and they aren’t pretty.
Playing against Villacis is Ironside’s former nemesis, Turbo Kid himself, Munro Chambers. Here he’s not playing the hero and goes all out on the villain front. From the moment we first meet his character Dixon, we know that there’s something not quite right about him, and he’s soon giving off epic predator vibes which somehow morph into something even more menacing.
It’s refreshing to see a character, not just a young one, actually make all the right decisions. Usually in this type of film you can drive yourself mad screaming at the screen for characters to do this or that, only to have them run straight into danger, or to leave the valuable weapon on the floor, or do something else ridiculous. With Knuckleball, no sooner have you thought ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’, Henry is playing out the seemingly right thing to do.
Knuckleball takes it’s time getting going though, director Michael Peterson clearly choosing to focus on the relationship between our estranged duo for a good first third of the run-time. These scenes move slowly and are dialogue heavy, but once we get to the ‘action’, the film doesn’t let up until the climax and it’s a blast to watch.
Knuckleball review by Kat Hughes, July 2018.
Knuckleball screened as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival 2018 line-up.