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Review: King of Knives – “Refreshingly honest”

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Frank (Gene Pope) and Sebastian (Justin Sams) in King of Knives

The King of Swords is found within a deck of Tarot cards.  In a general context, it represents structure or routine and self discipline.  But if a subject’s reading has this card reversed, it can be symbolic of a man who is cold, cynical, and sarcastic – certainly adjectives that can be used to describe the main character in Jon Delgado‘s directorial debut, King of Knives.

Frank (Gene Pope) is a well-to-do advertising executive of the Baby Boomer era, married to his wife Kathy (Mel Harris) for almost thirty years.  They have two daughters, Sadie (Emily Bennett) a straight laced young woman who has only ever been with her first boyfriend, and Kaitlin (Roxi Pope) who is more of the ‘wild child,’ sarcastic and never shying away from telling the truth.  However, as much as they might seem a typical family on the outside, inside there are rifts that have developed – between husband and wife, between sisters – especially since the death of Danny, the third sibling, almost one year ago.  Over a three day period, the family all but implodes as they deal with the mid-life and quarter-life crises that have pushed them to a breaking point.

King of Knives mainly concerns itself with Frank’s story and his self-realization that he’s, well, just not a very good guy. But it’s hard to garner much sympathy for Frank as he drives his Maserati down busy Manhattan streets.  He’s a victim only of his own behaviour.  He’s a man who leers at women, has had multiple affairs, and who held his children to a horrible double standard.  He has no problems with Kaitlin being in a relationship with a woman, but he certainly took issue with the fact that his son was gay, something that likely factored in his death (this dark, underlying issue is not largely developed).

Gene Pope, who wrote the film alongside Lindsay Joy, basing it on his own mid-life crises, is certain to be compared in appearance to an older Mark Ruffalo (though that’s where comparisons should end).  He starts off the film a bit stiff in Frank’s shoes but thankfully eases into the role as things progress.  His scenes alongside Roxi Pope (assuming some relation here) are the best of the film, filled with an ease and comfort between on-screen father and daughter.  Roxi Pope largely steals the scenes she is in, but the entire supporting cast should get credit for creating characters that are often more interesting and sympathetic than Frank himself.  Special mention especially goes to Kara Young, who plays Kaitlin’s partner Darla, and Justin Sams who has an unfortunately too-small role as Sebastian, the mystic that reads Frank’s Tarot cards.

For his debut, Jon Delgado doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to shooting this sort of film, but for someone that has spent extensive time on movie sets this serves as a reasonable stepping stone into the director’s chair.  King of Knives is a decent holiday movie alternative once you’ve had your fill of all those saccharine Hallmark romances.  It’s less of a ‘holiday movie’ and instead is just a narrative that happens to take place over the Christmas season. In a story chronicling a family’s journey through regret, redemption, and change not everyone will get a happy ending. And while it never quite lands the drama or the comedy 100%, for that, it is refreshingly honest.

King of Knives is currently available on VOD and digital platforms.

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