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STUDIO: Phase 4 Films
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
• Digital download
A decent, direct to video entry in the janitor teaches a dork to fight genre.
Directed by Anne Wheeler, written by Evan Jacobs and Jack Nasser, starring Steve Austin, Daniel Magder, Jaren Brandt Bartlett.
Stone Cold Steve Austin plays a washed-up boxer who’s now pushing a broom at a high school. Matthew is the new kid in town who’s getting bullied. Sympathetic to this dork, Stone Cold laces up and agrees to train Matthew, despite the concerns of family and friends. What I’m saying is it’s a knockoff of The Karate Kid.
In movies the new kid in town is always getting picked on and bullied. I’ve never been the new kid but I can safely assume this happens in real life because high school kids are dickheads. There was a lot in the news about bullying this past year from kids of all ages. It’s a chronic problem in our mean, mean society, but there is a simple solution: janitors.
According to movies, every janitor in the U.S. is an ex-Marine or martial arts expert or some other kind of ass kicker. Mr. Miyagi was a janitor. He caught Daniel teaching himself karate from a book while he was fixing the LaRusso’s sink. In Showdown, Billy Blanks plays a janitor who teaches a kid martial arts. It’s all about the janitors! Now Stone Cold Steve Austin joins the ranks of fictional janitor-sensei in Anne Wheeler’s Knockout.
Matthew (Daniel Magder) just moved to a new town with his mom and stepdad. He’s an awkward kid and a little pudgy, making him a prime target for the jocks at his school. Hector (Jaren Brandt Bartlett), the bonehead leader of the jocks, catches Matthew attempting to make conversation with his girlfriend. Hector shoves Matthew to the ground and does the usual bully thing. He makes a great villain, this Hector kid. I wanted to reach through the screen and throttle him. He’s got a real asshole face.
Janitor Dan (Steve Austin) witnesses the bullying and encourages Matthew to join the school boxing team (are there high school boxing teams in real life?). So Matthew, whose grandpa used to be a prize fighter, laces up and goes to tryouts. He doesn’t make the team because it turns out Hector is the school boxing champ. Hector goes a little overboard with the sparring and beats the piss out of him. Broken, bruised, and, worst of all, humiliated, Matthew lays in the ring a defeated dork.
But Janitor Dan feels bad for Matthew and gives him a few pointers. Turns out he used to be a prize fighter himself. Golden Gloves and everything. He was on the fast track to boxing history but his dreams were derailed by his hard living. Now he mops up teenage vomit and empties the sanitary napkin bags in a high school. Which reminds me, remember when Stone Cold used to shotgun beers in the ring? Or when he drove that goddamn beer truck into the arena and hosed down Vince McMahon?! Talk about hard living!
Janitor Dan teaches boxing to Matthew and it all predictably leads up to a final showdown with Hector. Matthew isn’t doing so hot but then his grandpa shows up out of nowhere and rallies for him, Mickey Goldmill style. It’s formulaic and cheesy as it gets, but overall the movie isn’t so bad. Daniel Magder is a capable young actor and he pulls off the frustrated youth well. And like I said, that Hector kid is a great villain. Steve Austin plays it low-key here and it works. Janitor Dan is a weathered wash-up and he never acts like anything but.
Unlike Mr. Miyagi and Billy Blanks, Janitor Dan doesn’t do any ass kicking. There’s only one split second moment when he shows he can still move. I like that. There’s no forced revelatory moment when Matthew is like “Whoa! He is more than a janitor!” He just trains Matthew and pushes a broom. It would be great to see Steve Austin in more high profile movies. He’s got a great, menacing presence and Knockout proves he doesn’t have to act like a redneck shitkicker to carry a role. Bravo, Mr. Stone Cold.
My biggest problem with the film is that Matthew doesn’t earn it. Sure he trains and jogs and learns how to jab, but he doesn’t get beat up enough. Daniel LaRusso nearly got killed by the Cobra Kai before he could defeat them, for chrissakes. They drove him off of a goddamn cliff on their dirtbikes!!! Matthew just gets shoved and loses a sparring match with Hector. C’mon! Then his grandpa – who we never see before in the film – just materializes out of thin air to rally for him at the fight! Face it, you just got lucky, kid.
Knockout winds up being a cheap knockoff of The Karate Kid, which itself was a knockoff of Rocky. But overall it’s good for what it is: a PG, DTV movie starring Stone Cold Steve Austin. If that’s all you ask from it, you’ll be happy.
Only a trailer and a digital download, but there’s a great photo on the cover of Stone Cold looking disappointed in you. He has his trademark goatee on the cover but it’s missing in the film. Gotta say, dude looks super weird without a mustache.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars