Knock 'Em Dead, Kid
directed by Christopher L. Golon
(Golon, 2009)

Knock 'Em Dead, Kid is not your parent's coming-of-age flick. And, unless your neighbor is into indie flicks, it's probably not your neighbor's coming-of-age flick either. At the core of its $3,000 indie heart, it's a cautionary tale about the dangers of being an unthinking slacker. It's an unexpectedly sober treatment of most of the basic tropes and of the typical guy film -- and their consequences. Unthought-out violence, beat-downs, substance abuse, one-night-stands. Not that the film isn't funny. And not that it's dark, either. Like its commercial counterparts, it's full of raunchy sex scenes, fat jokes, etc. But it has an earnestness that is almost downright evangelical. Don't worry, it isn't. Religion doesn't really pop up. The spiritual awakening in this film is the wakening to common sense.

The film begins when Bret (played by Dirk Julian) does something stupid. Of course. Guy films are about stupidity. He drinks out of the milk carton in the take-out joint where he works. Even worse, he does it while on duty and is actually seen. In a guy film, this kind of stuff would be received by the audience with laughter, without moral judgement and maybe even a bit of guilty giddiness at the character's ultra-hipness. Not here. Bret and his three pals are about to get a lesson that shows them that the real world is nothing like the reel world.

The viewer has to work with the first 10 minutes. The world-building is a bit slow and one has to struggle to hear the characters' names. (They're Bret, Jim and Will.) But after a while one commits to the film's groove. Dread-locked Jim lives with his drunken dad. Bret goes out with Veronica. Will goes out with Angela. After hearing that one of their female friends was raped by a guy named Teddy, they proceed to do a little vigilante beat-down on the guy. They're a nice bunch of working class guys but after three weeks of stupid choices -- which include cheating, girlfriend-abuse, believing rumors and lies and generally living by their non-wits -- they learn they live in a world where laws, cops and intelligence matter. But every kid needs to learn that he is perhaps not as free as he thinks he is ... and life is often about restraint.

I had a bit of a problem with the film in the beginning. Some of the witticism at the cost of women, especially fat women, seemed overly-scripted and annoying. And a couple scenes suffered from bad acting. But as a lover of indie flicks, I know that indies tend to be overly hip and to have a lot of earnest bad acting so the film grew on me. I can't call it a treasure but it's not pretentious or predictable as most independents tend to be. It's definitely a film that walks the borderlands: a hip guy flick one can see with one's mom because in the end it's all about Mom saying "I told you so, son. The world is a serious place." As one of the characters says, "One thing leads to another." (Especially if you're not thinking.) The track the guys find themselves being pulled on is not the train the hottie Trish has been rumored to be pulling. One thing leads to another. Not a bad lesson to learn before stepping out into adult life.

review by
Carole McDonnell

31 October 2009

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