Come to think of it, KNOCK OUT is a difficult film to execute because the two characters – Sanju and Irrfan – never cross paths, except for a fleeting moment towards the end. In fact, they are constantly talking to each other over phone. Now watching a man trapped in a phone booth [for the entire film] could make the viewer restless. But the engaging screenplay and the energetic pacing keeps the viewer on toes. You just don’t know what to expect next, since the story doesn’t follow the beaten path. What sets it apart from not just PHONE BOOTH, but also other films [including LIBERTY STANDS STILL] is the fact that Sanju is not out to settle personal scores with the wrongdoers [Irrfan, Gulshan Grover]. He wants to book those who have cheated India by stashing unaccounted money across various banks abroad. In fact, the finale is the best part of the enterprise and stirs up patriotic feelings. On the flipside, the film tends to get repetitive at times. The middle of the second hour stagnates, albeit for a few minutes. Also, there’s a reference to a woman that makes Sanju extremely emotional. One assumes that the woman is linked to Sanju is some way, but that remains a mystery all through. Mani Shankar illustrates his ability as a fine storyteller. His handling of the subject is commendable. Also, the director employs the split-screen style to tell the story, which comes across very well. Cinematography [N. Natarajan Subramanian] is striking. Action scenes [Allan Amin] are vibrant. However, the one-on-one fight in the climax or prior to that, when the cops enter Sanju’s apartment and Sanju kills all of them single-handedly, should’ve been avoided. It robs the film on realism. Dialogues [Shiraz Ahmed] are razor sharp and an asset. I wish to make a special mention of the background score [Sanjay Wandrekar, Atul Raninga], which is truly fantastic. The casting is just perfect. Sanju seems to be in form after a really long time, after MUNNABHAI in fact. Besides, the performance is consistent from start to end, which only goes to show the involvement of the actor in the script and director. Irrfan is akin to a chameleon. Cast him in any role and he emerges trumps. A lesser actor in his place and KNOCK OUT would’ve got knocked out. Kangna is efficient, as always. But her diction is faulty at places. Gulshan Grover is excellent. He plays the corrupt politician with natural ease. Sushant Singh is first-rate. Rukhsar is good in a brief role. Apoorva Lakhia carries the stern look well. Asif Basra does a commendable job.
On the whole, KNOCK OUT is a watchable fare, but its English title and also Sanjay Dutt’s box-office pull, which is minimal currently, will act as deterrents. Therefore, the film will require a very strong word of mouth to find a foothold.