I have the most fun reviewing films that surprise me, especially those with a micro-budget and a story that’s well-told. I didn’t have any expectations for “King of Knives,” a sarcastic, abrasive family dramedey from director Jon Delgado. Movies like this are exactly why critics should always give a film a fair shake no matter their pedigree (or lack thereof). The film may not be well acted or directed, but there’s a rough around the edges charm that makes this one a winner.
Successful advertising man Frank (Gene Pope) is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. His wife Kathy (Mel Harris) has tolerated his adultery for years, but she sticks around and pretends to be content. Their two adult daughters Sadie (Emily Bennett) and Kaitlin (Roxi Pope) have polar opposite personalities; one is acerbic and speaks her mind while using humor as a defense mechanism, while the other dreams of being the perfect hostess and wife. The family comes together for dinner on the night of Frank and Kathy’s 28th wedding anniversary and the story follows the events of the next few days.
Within 72 hours, Frank attends a house party, takes a large quantity of drugs, has his fortune read, wrecks his Maserati, and halts an upcoming marriage. He’s doing a lot of soul searching in the only way he knows how. Nobody in this dysfunctional family seems happy, as their personal lives are all falling apart in different ways. A family tragedy is revealed that is (understandably) the root of their problems, and they soon realize that the only way to get through the buried grief is to face the tough issues together — because going it alone isn’t working.
The film starts off as a decent comedy but grows into a more somber family drama. It gets serious, but is lighthearted enough that it never feels burdened with the more depressing elements. There are profound life lessons learned by all of the characters, but this comedy-drama is the opposite of a feel-good Hallmark movie (and that’s a good thing). The film has something to say, and says it well.
The acting is mediocre and the dialogue sometimes clunky, but the film settles into its skin. The actors have a good chemistry and the characters are likeable in their own individual ways. I found myself rooting for all of them, which is something that doesn’t happen often. The script (by Pope and Lindsay Joy) feels true to life, told with a series of realistic vignettes strung together to create an interesting story. There’s so much happening in this film, yet the plot can’t be concisely summarized.
“King of Knives” may not be a very polished project overall, but that adds to its appeal. This funny, touching, unexpected little gem kept me engaged until the end.