Michael Keaton Proves He’s Forgotten Nothing in ‘Knox Goes Away’

The star directs this forlorn neo-noir with a solid and unwavering strength.

‘Knox Goes Away’ proves Michael Keaton still has everything it takes. Courtesy of Saban Films

Agreeable, multifaceted Michael Keaton has been away from the screen for a while, but as both star and director of Knox Goes Away, his fresh and sophisticated new crime thriller, he proves he’s forgotten nothing about how to invest an offbeat film with his own unique sensibility and control it with precision and power.

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KNOX GOES AWAY ★★(3/4 stars)
Directed by: Michael Keaton
Written by: Gregory Poirier
Starring: Michael Keaton, Al Pacino, Marcia Gay Harden, Ray McKinnon
Running time: 114 mins.


In a smart script about crime and psychology by Gregory Poirier, Keaton irons out more twists than a scenic railway as John Knox, a sophisticated and highly educated hit man diagnosed with a rare neurological condition that prolongs mental collapse and hastens a fast-moving form of dementia. He has one last job before retirement, but with this toxic new condition and a prognosis of only a few months to live, everything goes south and he mistakenly kills three victims instead of one, including his partner and best friend (Ray McKinnon). Then, during months of decline, while he’s trying to re-organize his game plan, regain his old self-confidence, adjust to the knowledge that his career as a contract killer is over, and arrange his assets to cash in on the money he’s saved, his problems are further exacerbated when his estranged son Miles (James Marsden), whom he hasn’t seen in years, shows up at his door in the midnight hours, bloody and desperately in need of help. He’s just killed his 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend and begs Knox to help cover up the violent crime. All he wants is to end a tense, regretful life in peace, but before Knox “goes away,” there are several loose ends he must tie together. It doesn’t matter how many more bodies he adds to the growing crime scene. He’s going away for good, so will anyone care?

While Knox devises an elaborate plan to take care of the people who survive him, it’s interesting to watch Keaton go through the motions of his life—disposing of evidence, opening locked doors, eating spare ribs with great relish. In and out of his struggles parades an imposing cast of supporting players who fill every role with the kind of substance that keeps an uncommon thriller thrilling: Marcia Gay Harden as his ex-wife, Al Pacino as the gangster boss who offers advice when the cops close in, Joanna Kulik as the call girl who betrays him. Knox is not an easy man to warm up to—and the movie doesn’t ask us to—but as he begins to correct the mistakes he’s made and act like the father and grandfather he’s never been as his last act of reconciliation (and because of Keaton’s charisma), a sense of compassion begins to surface. The star directs this forlorn neo-noir with a solid and unwavering strength, portraying both Knox’s decline from the cold, calculating professional criminal and the lost, confused father searching for ways to make a fresh start at the end of the game. Knox Goes Away is an exemplary crime drama that looks at old cliches with a fresh slant and gives a reliable but still surprising star a chance to demonstrate the range and depth of character he rarely gets the chance to explore.

Michael Keaton Proves He’s Forgotten Nothing in ‘Knox Goes Away’