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ReThink Review: Knock Knock - Eli Roth's Anti-Infidelity PSA

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/10/2015 Jonathan Kim

If you were married to a famous filmmaker and that person cheated on you, how would you make that person pay for it? One possibility is that you could force your philandering spouse to write and direct a movie like Knock Knock, an infidelity cautionary tale written and directed by horror prince Eli Roth and starring Keanu Reeves, Ana de Armas, and Roth's real-life wife Lorenza Izzo. Now I'm not saying that Roth cheated on Izzo -- as far as I know, they have a happy marriage. I'm just saying that if Roth had cheated on Izzo, forcing him to make Knock Knock would be a fitting punishment. Watch the trailer for Knock Knock below.

It's been almost thirty years since infidelity thriller Fatal Attraction managed to scare a generation of men into keeping it in their pants. To do this, the film didn't lecture men about the morality of cheating (men already know that cheating is wrong) or the difficulty of concealing evidence of indiscretion (most men wouldn't cheat if they thought they'd get caught). Instead, Fatal Attraction put the fear of God in married men by reminding them that cheating inherently involves inviting a potential wildcard into your life and handing them a powerful bargaining chip they can use against you. That getting away with infidelity doesn't hinge on the successful execution of carefully-planned subterfuge, but having to trust and rely on the discretion of someone who could be a total nutbag. Fatal Attraction works because while men who cheat think they've prepared for everything, all men intrinsically know that few things in life are as unpredictable and hard to manage as an emotional, motivated woman. Watch the trailer for Fatal Attraction below.

This misplaced trust is what traps architect Evan Webber (Reeves) in Roth's infidelity PSA Knock Knock. Evan, a loving husband and devoted father of two, has decided to forego a family trip to the beach so he can work on a pressing project. But what's planned as a relaxing, distraction-free weekend of classic vinyl and AutoCAD takes an unexpected turn when two attractive young women, Genesis and Bel (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas), knock on his door late at night seeking help and refuge during a rainstorm. Evan, who can be a bit of a flirt according to his wife (Ignacia Allamand), invites the women in to dry off and locate the party they're looking for as they wait for an Uber. But before long, the sexually liberated Genesis and Bel are throwing themselves at Evan, offering him a night of wild, harmless, no-commitment thrills. And despite his best efforts to resist them, Evan eventually gives in -- a moment of weakness that becomes dangerous and even deadly as the women first refuse to leave, then return the next night to take Evan prisoner to make him pay for his infidelity.
I guess the closest thing Knock Knock comes to social commentary is the idea that all men would cheat on their wives if they were sure their wives would never find out. But instead of being an indictment of men and their inability to control themselves, Evan's decision feels more like an idealized hypothetical, like asking what you would do if you found a suitcase full of money and there would be no repercussions if you took it. Sometimes we do the right thing because we believe it's right, and other times it's because we're afraid of getting caught and the repercussions/damage that could result. But if the possibility of repercussions is removed -- as Genesis and Bel do their best to convince Evan is the case since their work as flight attendants will quickly whisk them out of town and they believe sex can/should be meaningless fun -- then the hypothetical question becomes a lot less interesting.
It's been said that "integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching," which would've been a more interesting topic for Knock Knock to explore. Evan is portrayed as a decent person, but if he were to get away with his fling, is he still a good guy? How would he be able to live the daily lie of looking his adoring wife in the face as if he'd always been faithful? Or would he be able to completely compartmentalize his indiscretion, believing that what he had done meant nothing, was not a reflection on his marriage, or was at most a victimless crime (even if his wife would be devastated if she found out), thus further questioning the decent-guy narrative. Would getting away with it lead to more risk-taking, or would Evan's guilty conscience make him realize the error of his ways?
Knock Knock as a drama could be a fascinating portrait of a marriage or a Crime and Punishment-style examination of integrity, morality, arrogance, and guilt. But in Roth's hands, Evan's mistake isn't cheating on his wife, but cheating on his wife with two women he doesn't know who turn out to be crusading infidelity-hating psychopaths. But if the message of Knock Knock is that you shouldn't cheat on your partner because you can never fully trust the person you're cheating on them with, then it's an effective anti-cheating cautionary tale. It'd be better if people didn't cheat because it's dishonest and potentially hurtful, but you might get the same result by showing that as long as there are accomplices, there's no such thing as a perfect crime.
Also, to make Knock Knock a better movie, you'd also probably need a different lead actor than Keanu Reeves. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie where Reeves is in practically every scene and has to handle a decent amount of dialogue, and it reminded me of what an odd, somewhat improbable actor he is. All his dialogue seems to be delivered half a beat too late, his reactions off by a few degrees. The best way I can describe it is that he seems like an actor who is confident in his skills but only learned he was going to be in a movie 30 seconds before the camera started rolling. Like he doesn't totally know what's going on, but he's cool with it.

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