New Releases: King of Knives (2020) - Reviewed

As children grow into adulthood, family dynamics change.  Parents are often seen more as friends to adult children than the authority figures they once were, able to discuss life topics that were previously taboo.  The older the children become, however, the more they begin realize that their parents might not have all the answers and are flawed just like anyone else.

King of Knives explores this parent-child dynamic in a humorous, slightly irreverent, and overall poignant way.  The film follows Frank (Gene Pop) in the midst of a massive mid-life crisis.  Despite being successful in business, he feels something is missing, and the red sports car he bought isn’t exactly filling the void.  He nearly forgets his 29th wedding anniversary when we’re first introduced to him, and life only heads south from there for poor Frank.  His two daughters are polar opposites with their own slew of personal problems, and his wife is in a wine-guzzling state of denial about her marriage.  Through a hedonistic few days in the lives of this dysfunctional family, everyone bares their souls and comes to terms with some harsh realities that might change their dynamic forever.

This film is a small character piece with a great cast who work well together.  Jon Delgado impresses with the portraits he paints of these damaged New Yorkers in his directorial debut.  While the performances feel a bit stilted at first and need a minute to “warm up,” once the actors enter their comfort zone, we start to understand the characters more and the main cast shines.  The chemistry between Frank and his semi-closeted lesbian daughter Kaitlin (Roxi Pope) is particularly enjoyable:  they have a candor with each other that is completely endearing and fun to watch.  He’s the “cool dad” that wants to party with her friends, and she’s not afraid to give him the middle finger when he deserves it.

Displaying a perpetual balancing act between humor and sentimentality, the film usually goes for the laughs, but has a tendency to bring the mood down shortly thereafter.  This script (co-written by our lead actor Gene Pope) is rife with dismal subject matters like infidelity and suicide, but it somehow manages to yield enough levity to not feel woefully depressing.  The same can’t be said for the final act, however:  it becomes a drawn-out display of heartbreaking honesty that overstays its welcome a bit, partially due to its sluggish pacing.  While it’s not a deal-breaker, it leaves a blemish on an overall well-paced film that generally knows what to omit and skillfully blends the drama and comedy in this “dramedy” in a sobering yet uplifting way.

King of Knives is a noble first effort for Jon Delgado.  It’s not a visual masterpiece, but he understands the characters well, and that’s what matters here.  It’s a story about love, loss, and self-actualization that is relatable and captures the essence of a modern family brilliantly.  The film knows that answers in life are complicated and never come easily.  Much like Frank, King of Knives isn’t perfect, but there’s enough to love here to make it worth your while.

--Andrea Riley