As Bad As You Thought?: Knockout

I may have earned a reputation as a guy who loves some dark and scary movies, but truth be told I have a softer side I also enjoy romantic movies and movies where the underdog accomplishes his goals against all odds. When I came across the movie Knockout where Hall of Fame wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin plays a burned out boxer who becomes a janitor at a school who trains a kid to stand up for himself, my more sensitive side was intrigued, in fact the last movie like this that I discovered was, That’s What I Am, and I very much enjoyed it so if this was in the same vein I was hopeful. True there is a stigma to movies where wrestlers act in like, The Marine and See No Evil (both of which will probably be reviewed here at some point) but there are also flicks like; They Live and The Princess Bride. So with an open mind it is time to see if Knockout is as bad as you thought.

Our movie begins with our scrappy young protagonist Matthew Miller being driven to his new school by his mother, geez my mother always made me hitch hike to school. Through his dialogue with his mother we learn he is the standard underdog movie kid; new town, new school, family not too well of financially, and that he is a petulant brat.  Matthew goes goes on a bitchy whinefest about his new social standards and how his mother is now finally happy with a new husband and how he had to leave his upper class private school (that he insists on wearing the school uniform for apparently) for an obscure (he claims nobody has heard of it seems legit) public school on the wrong side of town; and this, for all of you aspiring filmmakers out there, is how you make a likable and relateable protagonist. We are not even five minutes into the movie and this guy is already irritating me so much I want to turn off the flick. To her credit his needlessly attractive mother tries her best to comfort him, telling him few others have ever been through what he is gone through because the last time a kid changed schools or relocated to new town, Johnson was still in the Oval Office, and I mean Andrew not Lyndon.

He awkwardly walks into his first class where some emo kid jokes around and tells him to go to the office for being late and gets a good chuckle, but the commandant of the class will have none of this class clownery and orders him to detention. In order to save his bacon the emo kid claims Matt is his friend and Matt plays along. In class their first assignment is to read and discuss the book Metropolis which was the basis for Fritz Lang’s classic science fiction film, when I was in school we just read some Robert Louis Stevenson book which had an awesome sounding summary on the back cover, too bad the summary was apparently for some other more exciting book than the one I was reading. Immediately after class, the emo kid befriends him and introduces himself as Nick, I notice how not only does he look like one of the whack jobs who worshiped Bella in Twilight walked on he even acts like him, well played Bad Movie God, well played.

At home his new step father Jacob, who looks remarkably like the guy on the Bush’s Baked Beans commercial, goes in to check on Matthew’s unpacking and of course his goodwill effort is greeted with uncomfortableness, and by Matthew explaining that his mother lied to him about

This guy is so tough and intimidating that…I’m sorry I just can’t bring myself to believe it

the occupation of Jacob’s new father-in-law, he was a boxer long before he became a car salesman, this might have something to do with the plot later on. The next day at school, Matthew now has a friend in Nick and has cast aside his elitist attitude and designer suit…and oh wait he didn’t. Nick even goes through the trouble of inviting him to eat lunch with him and his cute lady friend which Matthew reluctantly accepts realizing he is joining with the school’s misfits; if he can be brave enough to ask out the most popular girl in school. Being a movie about an underdog overcoming immense obstacles means naturally she has some big tough athletic boyfriend who….bwahahahaha her big tough stereotypical bully boyfriend is smaller than Matthew, seriously he looks like a cast member of Jersey Shore minus the muscles, and even has the douche frat boy fohawk thing hairstyle going on, even Peter Parker pre-spider bite would not get picked on by this dweeb. After school he goes home and begins to bond with his step dad over his newfound obsession with boxing and the next day in school he shows up without his tie or blazer, serious character evolution going on.

Of course his bully, Hector and his gang (wow not only is he a terrible bully but he even has a gang? What screwed up universe does this movie take place in?) are waiting for him and they are already pissed because they missed the sale at Eddie Bauer. They have the audacity to throw a cup of soda at him and start…er molesting him I guess is the best word for it. Luckily a kind-hearted but physically intimidating janitor in the form of, Stone Cold Steve Austin, comes to his aid and notices Matthew’s book and about boxing. They chat for a while and Stone Cold invites him to the boxing club the school has, I guess clubs for things schools don’t usually have clubs for is big here, but hey the school my brother went to had a rifle team so I guess a boxing group is safer than that at least. But his trouble with Hector does not end and they are sent to the office for fighting, and by they I mean Matthew and his buddy Nick who came to his aid, because this is an underdog movie so the popular bully and his popular girlfriend are above reproach. But this train of events leads to him deciding to go out for the school boxing team, which i did not see coming, but I’m willing to bet in some twist of fate that his pal Hector is the top dog despite the fact that I think someone like Abigail Breslin could take him in a fight.

His mother rejects the idea of him boxing even though she claims he was a fighter back when he was sick…I’m not sure what that means. But parental disapproval and lack of a permission slip be damned he does to boxing practice the next day and if you want to know how this boxing team operates think, Cobra Kai Dojo but for boxing instead of martial arts, oh and surprisingly Hector is the top champion on the team and Matthew has to fight him for a spot on the team. The poor kid tries to duck out but the Bionic Rattlesnake mysteriously appears and gives him some generic words of encouragement, if I had to choose a spirit guide for these kind of occasions I guess he works. But as we all know words of encouragement don’t translate into actual skills and he is humiliated and defeated. After practice as Matthew broods the mystical Stone Cold once again shows up for some generic wisdom, and reveals to Matthew’s surprise, that despite his muscular physique and fighter look, he was once  a boxer himself who had to quit because he “lived too fast”.

In a twist of the plot, Stone Cold reluctantly agrees to take the kid on as an apprentice, but hey so far Mr. Austin is the best actor in this movie. And in the span of a few minutes the two start forging a strong bond with each other as Stone Cold teaches and the kid continues to spout off boxing facts that would put Wikipedia to shame. After a few days…er the next scene, his self confidence sky rockets to the point where the taunts from Hector and his peroxide headed friend (who actually looks the part of the stereotypical jock/bully) have no effect AND he starts subtly putting the moves on the cute girl, Ruby, from way back at the beginning of the movie. So far the girl is my favorite character, mainly because she actually points out that the whole thing is way too Karate Kid-esque and she blows Matthew away with her art skills which he claims are “good” and not “comic book good but real good” because guys like; Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Alex Ross, John Romita, Will Eisner, John Cassady, David McKean, Bryan Hitch, Cully Hamner, Mark Bagely, John Byrne, Bernie Wrightson and JH Williams III are all talentless hacks as artists. As a comic fan I am kind of happy when Hector approaches and tells him there is a secret try out after school in the gym just for him, I think he may finally earn a spot on the team. Waitaminute, the coach is not there and the only team members there are the school bullies who beat him up!!!!!!!! Matthew is saved by the sound of glass shattering and Stone Cold’s music playing (not really but it would have been cool) and his trainer goes in proclaiming to be the janitor who will mop the floor with them. Of course since Hector is the top athlete in the school he gets away with it, but through this we learn the Cobra Kai…I mean boxing team coach has a long running rivalry with Stone Cold, where have I seen this plot point before? Oh yeah, every single damn underdog sports movie ever. This rivalry leads to Stone Cold saying that his student is better than the coach’s pet, Hector and a match is set between the two. Two full grown men using their students to settle their disputes, sounds legit, time to draw up the permission slip, which reminds me that Matthew never got the first permission slip signed at the beginning of the flick and we find out how, he *gasp* forges his mother’s signature!

Austin takes Matthew to an actual gym to train and Matthew’s skill surprisingly improves, and being a boxing movie we get a montage of showing Matthew getting better. Later on he meets up with Ruby for a date and she affirms her status as the coolest character in the movie by revealing that her parents own a freakin’ drive-in movie theater! Oh, and she can access it and watch old horror and science fiction movies whenever she wants….geez the girl I dated in high school’s parents only owned a shotgun, they made that abundantly clear. The next day, Hector and his BFF bully Matthew some more, he even knocks Matthew’s backpack down, but don’t worry his bleach-blond buddy gives it back to him…in an angry fashion. As if that is not bad enough, he is later talking to his buddy Nick (yeah, remember that guy from way back at the beginning of the movie?) about he and Ruby kissed which she overhears and goes into a full on rage about, nice to see as cool as she is that she is emotionally stable as well. And in class his math teacher gets mad at him for missing assignments, which he makes up right then and there, impressing his teacher to no end. When he goes home, the inevitable happens and his parents have discovered that he forged their signature on the permission slip and that the school has dared to fire the great Stone Cold (someone at the school district is looking to get an ass-whooping) for training him. An upset Matthew goes to Stone Cold’s house boat who gives him some words of encouragement about fighting alone and all, now that he is out of a job as a school janitor he should write a book full of nothing but his generic inspirational advice.

On the day of the big match, Ruby has instantly forgiven him for mentioning to his buddy that the two of them were starting to date. In the locker room he even responds to Hector and his bitch with some verbal punches of his own. And suddenly a familiar Texas drawl echoes through the locker room as Stone Cold enters for some more generic advice he probably heard from a movie at some point and thought it sounded good.  At the match his grandfather who has been frequently referred to, finally appears to encourage his grand kid. Finally it is time to get it on like Diddy Kong all the while the spiritual wisdom of Austin 3:16 goes through his head. Of course Hector cheats and of course he dominates for much of the match but in the end, Matthew rises as the phoenix and wins in the end. The suddenly apologetic Hector makes a good effort to congratulate him, but even though won the last round Hector won two rounds, but Matthew is still brought in as an alternate. And despite the coach having big a huge douche who hated him and the whole team being full of douches who hate him he accepts his spot on the team and is even allowed to make a nice speech at the end. And with a friendly nod, Austin journeys off into the sunset, actually they’re in a gym so it’s a metaphorical sunset. Cue the family and friend group hug and the generic inspiration alt-rock song and the movie ends.

Was Knockout as bad as I thought? Not bad but not good either, it just kind of existed as a generic movie about the underdog facing an athletic challenge. If you’ve seen, Rocky, The Karate KidLitte GiantsThe Mighty Ducks, or any other movie of that type you’ve pretty much seen everything this movie offers, in fact I would say you’re better off watching those movies as they are far superior. As far as the characters go they are all pretty cut and dry, the main character Matthew, evolves from a petulant brat who spouts off boxing trivia nonstop to a kid who boxes and spouts off boxing trivia nonstop, but the evolution is not at all believable he’s simply one way in a scene and another way in another scene and he never becomes particularly likable to the audience. Stone Cold is basically Yoda meets Sam Elliot’s character from The Big Lebowski , spouting off bland and unmemorable bits of wisdom at every opportunity. As if you could not tell the character I had the biggest problem with his Hector, if the filmmakers wanted to make the antagonist a physically threatening character they should have cast someone who at least had a little bit of muscle mass and looked slightly athletic, not someone who looked like they had just finished a photo shoot for Abercrombie and Fitch. I garuntee you you can completely miss this movie and life for you will continue as it has without you missing a thing.