Knuckledust is about a prolific underground fight club run by the sultry and mysterious Ms. Serena (Camille Rowe). Much of what takes place inside Club Knuckledust is fixed, placing certain individuals at the mercy of threats and money. When one fighter decides not to play by the rules, all hell breaks loose, the police become involved, and the future of the club is in shambles. Nothing is as it seems, and this hard-hitting action film is sure to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
The intro is entirely too long. As viewers anticipate the sure-to-be blood bath, the unnecessarily lengthy introduction does nothing to help build the suspense. Instead, it turns viewers off to Knuckledust early on. While it does take some time for viewers to bounce back and begin to appreciate what is occurring, the high-octane nature of the movie allows them to enjoy themselves. Given the fact that Knuckledust is, on the surface, about a fight club, action sequences are inevitable. These scenes are beautifully done. The choreography is precise, the actors’ movements are deliberate, and the cinematography captures the brawls from unique and ever-changing angles, allowing every punch thrown to appear perfectly executed.
There is a unique sense of comedy present throughout Knuckledust that helps to move the film along. Knuckledust is perpetually dark, even in its funniest moments, similar to movies like Hotel Artemis and Terminal. However, the humor surrounding the police officers in the film quickly turns to incompetence and becomes incredibly difficult to appreciate. The instances of ineptitude and gravity mix like oil and water, become cumbersome, and viewers find enjoying those moments arduous. The intentions of keeping certain moments lighthearted are understood; however, the attempts at humor end up being unsuccessful.
“…one fighter decides not to play by the rules, all hell breaks loose…”
What is incredibly successful about Knuckledust is the mysterious Ms. Serena. She is dark, brilliantly domineering, and uniquely likable; and through it all, viewers know that she can be vulnerable as well. It is not until the very end of Knuckledust that it’s made clear how and why she is vulnerable, but Rowe’s expertise makes even the most subtle nuances of her character visible to the audience. Rowe is the shining star of the show and is the main reason why viewers stick around.
While there are issues riddling Knuckledust from beginning to end, they pale in comparison to the characters, engaging story, and nearly perfect action sequences. The movie feels almost mainstream in the sense that it seems like all the stops are being pulled out to ensure its success. It appears that anything and everything needed to make this film work was readily available to the cast and crew.
As a lower-budget movie, seeing Knuckledust succeed in this regard is a testament to how hardworking the cast and crew were. While it begins a bit shaky, writer-director James Kermack quickly rights the ship and invites viewers into a world of blood and deception that, regardless of how ruthless it can be from time to time, is quite welcoming.
"…is sure to keep everyone on the edge of their seats."