An underground fight club, an assortment of bickering gangsters and a protagonist trying to talk his way out of police custody, all make up this engrossing movie that owes a lot to the likes of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. Its comic book style and over the top comical violence set the tone of this non-linear tale, drip feeding the ambiguous whys and wherefores, following a massacre at an underground fight club, the titular Knuckledust. What follows the initial fracas, is a tale of half truths, dirty cops and ambiguous villains. As the story slowly unravels and things become clearer, characters change, expectations are subverted and you really don’t know who’s coming or going.
It boasts a cracking ensemble cast, all of whom are on top form, bouncing off each other with the wisecracking, quick fire dialogue. This includes big british names, with likes of Phil Davis, Jaime Winstone and Kate Dickie, all giving a great performance. There’s action in spades, too. Despite its title, there’s as many gunfights and explosions as there is close quarters fighting. And it’s more than self aware as well, knowing that it’s a very silly set of circumstances that the films protagonist (or possible antagonist – the entire film is trying to find out whether this is the case or not), Hard Eight (Moe Dunford), finds himself in, with some very fun set pieces, including a riff on the by now standard corridor fight scene. It’s a struggle to recall if dildo nunchucks have been used in films before, but you can most certainly say you’ve seen them after watching this. It may be crass and vulgar at times, but everything is executed with a finesse usually reserved for the aforementioned film makers, and this is packed to the brim with style.
We’re even treated to a hand drawn, animated flashback sequence, which regardless of relevance to the story, and it seemingly appearing out of nowhere, was a great little addition to an already aesthetically pleasing movie. Through all the grime and grot, this is possibly one of the best looking films of this year. Despite its pretty small scale setting, every minute detail is relevant to each and every frame, and being along for the ride as it’s pieced together is one of the movie highlights of this very long and very trying year. It keeps you hooked in from beginning to end. From the initial opening, which itself seems to pull the rug from its own feet, this film – to use the tired old cliche – is an absolutely entertaining rollercoaster of violence, deception and toilet humour. Knuckledust is likely going to be one of the underrated films of the year. Perfect Friday night entertainment.