By Dave Campbell | July 8, 2009
Director: Alex Ranarivelo
Writer(s): Alex Ranarivelo
Starring: Ross McCall, Paul J. Alessi, Amie Barsky, Danielle Nicolet, Justin Baldoni, Jennifer Alden, Omar Gooding
Knuckle Draggers follows the story of a down on his luck emerging director named Ethan (Ross McCall). Even though Ethan’s a great guy, his fiancée Heather (Jennifer Alden) leaves him because he is unable to provide her a swanky lifestyle similar to those of her friends. Set on winning Heather back, Ethan reaches out to his sexist older brother Kyle (Paul J. Alessi), a macho New Yorker who has his own unique philosophy on the dynamic of men and women. Disgusted by Kyle’s chauvinist view on women, Ethan’s female friends Patricia (Amie Barsky) and Renee (Danielle Nicolet) chime in to provide advice from the other side. As the story progresses Ethan is not the only one who is faced with questioning their relationships, and what it is they need from them.
Though the stars of the film are not household names, there are many familiar faces – Ross McCall was in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and the Starz TV series Crash. Paul J. Alessi who is also the producer of the film was in Ten til Noon and the TV series Desire. Omar Gooding (Cuba Gooding Jr.’s little brother) was in Baby Boy, the HBO series Deadwood, and the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer TV series Miami Trauma. Amie Barsky is the co-producer of the film and will be in the upcoming war drama A Line in the Sand with co-star Paul J. Alessi. The film also includes Danielle Nicolet from The Starter Wife, Justin Baldoni from Heroes, and Jennifer Alden of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Wedding Crashers. The score by Austin Wintory and radio ready soundtrack add a complemented backdrop to the moods of the film which include songs from Jennifer Love-Hewitt & Sophie B. Hawkins, J Mello & Dave Navarro, Tyler Hilton, and Marching Band.
Every element of the film represents a quality indie production that should make the cast and crew proud. The cinematography, acting, and writing all put Knuckle Draggers in a league other aspiring indie film makers should strive for. There’s an engaging sensibility that writer/director Alex Ranarivelo was able to capture with each actor to produce character rich organic chemistry within the group. There are a few self indulgent scenes that become a bit wordy and run a little long, but the final product provides a compelling, nicely edited and well paced film. The plot plays on themes that have been done before, however the nature of how it’s presented sets it apart from other romantic drama comedies. The filmmakers rightfully compare the “spirit” of Knuckle Draggers to films like Swingers and The Brothers McMullen, but it also has a charm and wit reminiscent of early Kevin Smith films.
Knuckle Draggers has been making the rounds in the film fest circuit beginning with a sold out World Premiere at the Newport Beach Festival. The film has won Rising Star awards for Outstanding Feature by a New Filmmaker/Producer & Best Close-up in a feature film at the DelRay Beach Film Festival, as well as a Best Actor award for Paul J. Alessi in the ReelHeART International Film Festival. Though it is not currently being distributed, if you live in the Los Angeles area, Laemmle’s Sunset 5 will be screening the film on August 12, 2009.