Knuckleball Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Freestyle Digital Media
Directed by Michael Peterson
Written by Kevin Cockle and Michael Peterson
2018, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 5th, 2018
Michael Ironside as Jacob
Munro Chambers as Dixon
Luca Villacis as Henry
Kathleen Munroe as Mary
Chenier Hundal as Paul
Every family has secrets. Some families have dark secrets. Some families have ugly, rotten, deadly secrets- just ask the children of serial killers, for example. We all know that person (or maybe you are that person…) that just had to get away from home and become somebody else. Origins aren’t discussed. Family stories simply aren’t told. Growing up is a taboo subject. It’s from this well-worn pitcher’s rubber that director Michael Peterson (Lloyd the Conqueror) throws you his nastiest stuff.
Knuckleball is the story of Henry (Luca Villacis, The Midnight Man) and his trip to stay with his virtually unknown maternal grandfather, Jacob (legendary screen villain Michael Ironside; Scanners, Total Recall). Henry’s parents, Mary (Kathleen Munroe, Amazon TV’s Patriot) and Paul (Chenier Hundal, CW TV’s Arrow), must attend a family funeral. Though Mary is reluctant, she leaves Henry in Jacob’s care for a couple of days. There Henry meets Dixon (Munro Chambers, Degrassi: The Next Generation), the nearest neighbor. Jacob and Dixon have an unusual and secretive relationship that makes Henry nervous, but he settles into bonding with his grandfather over baseball and starts getting to know him. After Jacob dies in his sleep, Henry will discover just how black the human heart can be…and how dangerously alone he is.
Isolation and secrecy are the overwhelming theme from the opening shot of Knuckleball. The family homestead is in the middle of nowhere, blanketed in white and surrounded by wide open emptiness. Lovely flyover camera work and claustrophobic close work in the skeletal woods shorten your breath. The barn is locked, and many doors in the house have latches to keep people in. Jacob gives vague answers and speaks in general terms only. Everything is vague and mysterious.
Michael Ironside is a god of the silver screen and the perfect actor for this character. He’s still charismatic to the point of magnetism, but those deep and sinister eyes make you nervous at a stare. Somehow, being older and heavier has made him more menacing. It’s Casting 101, and Knuckleball gets an “A” for the choice. From the moment you see his face, you know some bad shit is going to go down.
As the wickedly slow build of tension hits the third act, you’ll see Munro Chambers display some sleazy, cringe-inducing chops while the action descends into an intense adult version of Home Alone. Henry, in return, is not your average tech-addicted Gen Z kid; he’s a ferociously intelligent powerhouse and a worthy foe to Dixon. Kudos to young Luca Villacis for a nuanced performance that had to rely heavily on body language and facial expression.
Knuckleball doesn’t get into distasteful territory, but it does get so dark that it’s downright obsidian in its secrets. The finale will catch you off guard, and it draws from the kind of hideous shit that really does happen. You’re reminded that the world can be an awful place and monsters do exist; they often come in a form you wouldn’t suspect. It also made me question the parenting decision of good old Mary and Paul, but I digress.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that if you left home for a reason then maybe you should stick with your gut instinct and let Grandpa die alone. After all, Grandma didn’t hang herself for nothing.
Is that too dark of me?