KNOCK OFF: REVENGE ON THE LOGO Image

“Knock Off: Revenge on the Logo” is supposed to be a documentary on the wide availability of counterfeit merchandise in New York’s major shopping centers. Unfortunately, filmmakers Katharine Weingartner and Anette Baldauf seem to be afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder because the film continually jettisons its original focus to chase after irrelevant concepts and outdated notions.

Things start off promisingly enough on Canal Street in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Blatantly bogus designer handbags, shoes, eyewear and clothing are offered for sale at rock bottom prices. Several would-be Carrie Bradshaws greedily manhandle the merchandise, acknowledging its illegitimate origins while chuckling that they can fool their friends into believing the faux-Gucci and Cartier items are genuine.

Occasionally, the NYPD and the U.S. Customs Service confiscate the knock-offs. But their pursuit of this crime is, at best, leisurely — and in one hilarious scandal, several New York cops were busted when it was discovered they took home bogus goodies they were supposed to confiscate! Oddly, the film never questions how all of these items are able to get into the country. It is no secret where it comes from (primarily from China), but how can so much stuff get past Customs inspection at the nation’s ports of entry?

From here, “Knock Off” literally runs amok as it travels through different New York neighborhoods. In chi-chi Soho, the film starts asking obvious questions about the persistence of excessive advertising and its effects on the status-challenged consumer; the film was shot in 2002 and the advertising featured here is anything but current. In Times Square, a lot of time is wasted on a dull street theater group who use a parody of televangelist melodramatics to urge a few barely-interested tourists not to shop at Disney Store outlets. In Harlem, a pair of young men babble endlessly on how the hip-hop generation drives America’s fashion tastes. Whatever common thread these issues have to the film’s original thesis is frayed before “Knock Off” shuts off after a 45 minute running time.

If there is an audience for this film, it will be the savvy New York shopaholics who will appreciate seeing their favorite streets and stores on camera. But for anyone else, “Knock Off” is a hard sell to recommend.

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