Directed by: Anne Wheeler
Written by: Joseph Nasser
Starring: Steve Austin, Daniel Magder and Jaren Brandt Bartlett
Remember when Superbad came out and there was discussion about whether or not high school kids actually talked with such aggressive swearing? Well, here’s the other side of that debate, a modern high school movie where the best taunt the kids can come up with is, “bird brain.” For the record, kids don’t talk like that either.
Surrounding that tepid dialogue are sub-par performances and an all too familiar narrative, that of the picked on new kid who trains in a sport in order to take on his oppressor. Knockout even makes reference to The Karate Kid, and it should. In fact, Knockout should be bowing down to its all mighty master and inspiration, since aside from boxing, this might as well be the same movie.
Well, that and the Mr. Miyagi character is played by Stone Cold Steve Austin. That’s kinds of a pace changer too.
Knockout isn’t offensively terrible in any way, and digging though the pile of cliches reveals a competent, breezy flick aimed at kids too young to even understand a Karate Kid reference (unless they saw the remake). It tackles the familiar, from believing in yourself and working at your dreams, to forging your parents signature to get permission to box. You know, the usual high school stuff.
Leading the way is the new kid Matthew (Daniel Magder) who seems bright enough, if completely unconvincing as both a boxer and movie cliché bullied newcomer. Austin, playing a former pro boxer turned school janitor, takes him under his wing to train after school, delivering all of those life lessons as longtime movie fans groan and roll their eyes with each line. Punches are thrown, black eyes ensue, and it all sets up a finale where Matthew must confront the school bully Hector (Jaren Brandt Bartlet) in the school championship. How convenient. Still, there’s enough meat on the bones of this one for that younger set, and maybe they’ll learn something along the way. Of course, if it sours them on Karate Kid later, maybe they need a better intro to this little sub-genre of bully brawling.
Phase 4 Films issues this one to DVD in a pleasing, clean encode. Knockout looks to have been shot digitally, no shocker for a direct-to-video bit, and standard DVD compression is relatively absent. Generally, it’s transparent, backdrops, faces, and establishing shots surprisingly clean. Knockout does take the brunt of the battle in regards to some banding, rough against the chalkboard at 46:09 and during the finale as Austin pops out of his chair to add dramatic tension.
There’s also an issue with aliasing, fine lines on houses, moving boxes, and cars troublesome. The family vehicle at 58:17 is a mess of blocks, a distracting resolution fault. Aside from those brief bouts of problem sources, Knockout is nicely textured, close-ups resolving a fair bit of fine detail. The film opens on various shots of this Random Town, USA, displaying a better than average level of visual acuity as trees, rivers, and other buildings appear completely natural. Black levels don’t have much bite while never appearing overly washed out. Primaries are saturated and pure without being unnaturally elevated. This is a solid appearance.
Audio follows a similar trend, a few nagging issues holding it back. The 5.1 mix rarely engages the surrounds, school hallways sounding barren as kids chatter on. Even in the gym, things never resonate as they should, save for a training session or two in Austin’s makeshift gym in the basement of the school. Punches ricochet off the pads and into the surrounds effectively.
We’re dealing with kids here, so punches never grab the sub and force it into some hard labor. A few slow motion blows may create a light rumble, but never with any aggressiveness or force. The finale is more or less highlighted by a strong stereo split as onlookers shout to the in-ring pugilists. Even the general crowd sticks to the fronts, much like the light score that carries decent enough range pouring from the stereos.
Extras don’t offer much, just a trailer and digital copy.