Knockdown reduces the American film noir to its singularly least appealing characteristic: macho self-pity. This is one of those films in which nothing happening is supposed to signify something about the existential loneliness that binds all of us, or at least all of us in the audience who are grizzled white American studs tormented by corrupt bookies and a never-ending procession of wildly attractive and accommodating Thai whores. Knockdown takes a serviceable genre premise that lifts spare parts from sources as diverse as The Set-Up, Kickboxer (yes, that one), and The Limey and dramatizes it as two men getting loading in a dive waxing faux-philosophic about their mutually dire straights. This tear-in-my-beer navel-gazing might work if it were played for comedy, but co-writer/director Todd Bellanca exhibits no such self-awareness. Which is to say that Knockdown is basically the direct-to-video action movie’s London.
I hesitate to recount the plot because it’s destined to make the film sound more enticing than it actually is. Jack “The Ripper” Stemmons (Casey T. Evans) is a promising boxer who goes on the lam in Bangkok after violently attacking the corrupt bookie (Tom Arnold) who conspired for him to lose a pivotal match whether he was willing to throw it or not. Jack sets himself up as owner of a small bar, falls in and out of bed with a number of hotties that include Bai Ling, and mourns the loss of his profession as well as the one hottie that got away. Meanwhile, a variety of lowlifes attempt in vain to lure him into fighting for cash in the Thai underworld, with unexpectedly boring results.
With the exception of the assault on the bookie, almost nothing comes of any of the other plot strands; instead, the film piles on flashback after flashback in an effort to ensure that we understand that Jack never had a chance. Knockdown is a tedious narrative shambles that’s almost hilariously unaware of its racism and sexism (let’s just say that the Thai tourist association won’t be contacting the filmmakers anytime soon). If anything good can be said of the film it’s that it inspires deep appreciation of even the most astonishingly god-awful films of Mickey Rourke. Say what you will about him, but Rourke has the manners and flamboyancy to flame out in style.