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BLOODY KNUCKLES seeks to offend, but does it?

BloodyKnucklesWebBloody Knuckles is directorial debut film from Canadian filmmaker Matt O’Mahoney (aka Matt O), following a string of seven short films that earned him some acclaim in the genre world. The plot follows Travis (Adam Boys), an underground, self-published comic book creator that prides himself on his anti-political correctness. His work features characters like Homo Dynamous (a gay, BDSM vigilante ‘superhero’) to cannibalistic African dictators. His comic is called Vulgarian Invasions — probably a nod to the famous Canadian film Barbarian Invasions — and seeks to offend everyone’s sensibilities. When Travis’s artistic sights are set on a local Chinatown crime boss named Leonard Fong (Kasey Ryne Mazak), his sardonic mouth bites off a little more than he can chew. Fong doesn’t take kindly to the images of him littered throughout the comic, certainly not the ones with him having sex with dead bodies. As payback, Fong decides not to take Travis’s life but rather his drawing hand. With his source of artistic creation taken away from him, Travis falls into a pit of despair. Eventually, thanks to a radioactive rat poison created by Fong, Travis’s hand returns to life and works to whip Travis back into shape and seek revenge against Fong.

Rumor has it that Matt O originally wanted to have Robin Bougie do the art for the film. Unfortunately, Bougie was not able to commit, although he does stand in as a small role in the film. The resulting artwork is less than effective. While there are plenty of comic artists with a similar amateurish looking style, Bougie’s refined style would lend the film a greater credence than it has. Beyond this factor, the other major issue with the film is the script. It’s not shocking that this is Matt O’s first feature, as the plotting of the film is terribly unsatisfactory. The second act plods along at a snail’s pace, filled with mediocre gags, like Travis’s hand sticking its finger up Travis’s butt or drawing a penis on his face as he sleeps. Meanwhile, Travis remains in a near-catatonic state, unable to accept his newfound disability. At only 85 minutes, these scenes take up a shocking amount of time and really feel excessive. For a character so cocksure, it’s really hard to empathize with him when he (ironically or not) becomes so self-depreciating and pitiful. It’s unsure whether Matt O is criticizing the character’s facade or really just buying time, although the film would suggest the latter to be more the case.

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Theoretically speaking, Bloody Knuckles has its heart in the right places but, as one may fear, it doesn’t always deliver equally. First, Travis is (of course) a straight, white, relatively privileged male, which causes a lot of the material to ring of yet another person who doesn’t quite get it. Given the current political state and the real (and important) conversations going on about inequalities and social injustice, the film does feel a bit old-fashioned and pigheaded at times. The cinematic equivalent of hasty renunciations of so-called social justice warriors; not that this is really the film’s intention but it rings that way at times. This is not a result of the intentionally offensive material but because the film doesn’t always deliver its humor as well as it could. The script could have used another pass, as it has all the right elements but not always situated correctly. Matt O attempts to undermine this, and that is clear, but his attempts (the inclusion of Travis’s friend Ralphie or even Homo Dynamous as, arguably. the first best character), are sometimes too little, too late. However, his thesis (the protection of free speech in art) is very important and I applaud Matt O’s attempts, even if I think there is a lot of unlived potential.

Matt O may struggle along the way but Bloody Knuckles is a good sign for his career. As his first feature, this reviewer is willing to give the filmmaker the benefit of the doubt and will certainly pay attention to his work in the future. The film’s saving grace is the last 10-15 minutes, where Matt O finally kicks it into third gear and goes all out. These scenes are a blast but, sadly, they come too late in the film’s short runtime. Bloody Knuckles is not anti-PC for the sake of being anti-PC, but because of the lackluster script it comes dangerously close to feeling like it. With a little more time spent polishing his final draft, Bloody Knuckles could have really elevated the subversive elements and crafted a powerful message about the power of subversion in art. Unfortunately, these elements are largely left to die on screen.

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It is clear that Matt O is, first and foremost, a fan of genre cinema. On a feature included on the recent Artsploitation Films Blu-ray, Matt O takes us through DiabolikDVD’s warehouse picking out his favorite titles, and his selection is full of great choices. It’s a joy to see directors making films they love and it’ll be great to see Matt O’s career blossom. As it stands, Bloody Knuckles is not as confident and strong as it needs to be, and, because its goals are lofty, it comes out looking weaker than it really is. Given some time to grow, Matt O will surely become a director to watch. Packed with a great deal of features, the Artsploitation Films Blu-ray of Bloody Knuckles is a definite buy for anyone who loves their horror rife with broad, lowbrow humor. If offensive-for-the-sake-offense style of humor isn’t your brand, however, Bloody Knuckles just won’t be for you.

Bloody Knuckles Specs:

  • Format: Blu-ray / DVD
  • Catalog: ART24
  • UPC: 851597006056 (DVD), 851597006124 (Blu-ray)
  • ISBN: 9781939196477 (DVD), 9781939196552 (Blu-ray)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Country: Canada
  • Language: English
  • Rating: NR
  • Year: 2014
  • Length: 85 min
  • Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  • Color: Color
  • Bonus material:Director’s Commentary, Interviews, Diabolik DVD tour, Lunchmeat VHS interview, Q&A with Cinema Sewer

Bloody Knuckles is now available on Blu-ray and DVD via Artsploitation Films

About Joe Yanick

Joe Yanick is a writer, videographer, and film/music critic based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the former Managing Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Noisey.vice.com, and Stagebuddy.com. In addition, he has worked with the Cleveland International Film Festival as a Feature reviewer. He is currently a Cinema Studies MA Candidate at New York University.

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