Disclaimer: This review is about a movie that is a little off the beaten path for Screen Rant. If you know me, you know I like explosive TV and movies with a lot of carnage. I was invited to screen this indie movie and after watching it, I politely annoyed asked Vic if I could publish my review of the movie here. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Despite having a standard plot that we may have seen before, Knuckle Draggers comes at us with an undertone that makes it relatable and compelling. The characters grow throughout the movie and I came away enjoying the ride this movie brought me through. Knuckle Draggers was entertaining and kept my attention throughout.
Knuckle Draggers takes a daring look at how relationships work from the POV of a "real man".
The story starts out following Ethan (played by Band of Brothers' Ross McCall). Ethan can be way too polite for his own good and lacks the defining edge that helps him stand out, whether it be at work or in the dating scene.
Ethan gets dumped by his fiancee in a brash way and his brother Kyle steps up to help him not only get through the ordeal, but to help Ethan "man up" and recognize what it's all about in the world of dating. It's a rather touching process to see Kyle care enough about his brother to tackle this daunting case of helping Ethan grow.
Kyle, played by Paul J. Alessi, echoes the approach of the infamous Tom Leykis in regards to what makes a relationship with a woman work. To the chivalrous, it's frightening, while the "dogs" of the male gender will tell ya they told you so.
In the story, Kyle is brave enough to spout his beliefs in mixed company and tends to catch flak from the opposite gender for his sexist observations on how women choose men with money. I cringed as he spouted his rhetoric.
Ethan, meanwhile, while desperate to get back together with his ex, encounters a revelation about her that makes what Kyle has been saying seem perfectly sensible, if you can believe that. I think it's a revelation that many men may have experienced at one time or another.
During the course of the movie, Kyle's outspoken views sink into the minds of the rest of the group. This has an interesting effect on the interaction between some members of the small knit group and things change for everyone in one way or another. Some of the cast include Omar Gooding (Deadwood, and Jerry Bruckheimer's new show Miami Trauma), Justin Baldoni (Heroes) and Danielle Nicolet (The Starter Wife).
Actress and co-producer of Knuckle Draggers, Amie Barsky, plays Patricia, a good friend of Ethan's. Patricia has her own surprising journey along the way to Ethan's enlightenment.
There are times in the movie where I thought the filmmakers were starting to drag on with a particular scene, but each scene culminates with the message it is supposed to deliver and moves on with the next one, almost on queue.
I found Knuckle Draggers compelling. It doesn't surprise me that it will be the closing-night film at the ReelHeART International Film Festival in June, or that Knuckle Draggers won two 'Rising Star' awards at the Delray Beach Film Festival, one of them being “Outstanding Feature by a New Filmmaker/Producer”. It also had a sold-out World Premiere at the 2009 10th annual Newport Beach Film Festival.
If you look closely, you might recognize some of the cast. Alessi, who plays Kyle, is also the film's producer.
The film opens and closes on what looks like the very same scene. It started to confuse me, but eventually the irony of the end twist will make perfect sense. Everything in this film comes together just like it's supposed to... I think. I won't say anymore. You'll have to try to catch the film to trace the path of each character's personal journey alongside Ethan as he tries to figure out his love life.
Knuckle Draggers is written and directed by Alex Ranarivelo, produced by Paul J. Alessi, and co-produced by Amie Barsky, Baptiste DeRivel, and Lamese Williams.
This movie is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy this sort of fare, or know someone who might, this is a fun flick. It delivers a great message that's a little bit different than expected and I found it had a rather satisfying ending.
Screen Rant Exclusive:
Knuckle Draggers hasn't seen a full release yet, but is shopping for a distributor as we speak. Paul J. Alessi (with his producer's hat on) told me that the film is being received very well and has a few really good offers on the table that could even result in a limited theatrical release and a worldwide DVD release. He's also indicated that there is some interest being shown towards a possible TV series based on the film.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, the film has an exclusive engagement at the HollyShorts Film Festival Special Feature screening at Laemmle Sunset 5 on August 12th 2009. You've heard it here first.