Dr. Knock – Knock (2017)
Directed by: Lorraine Levy | 114 minutes | comedy | Actors: Omar Sy, Alex Lutz, Ana Girardot, Sabine Azéma, Pascal Elbé, Audrey Dana, Michel Vuillermoz, Christian Hecq, Hélène Vincent, Andréa Ferréol, Rufus, Nicolas Marié, Sébastien Castro, Christine Murillo, Yves Pignot
In 1923, the French author Jules Romains wrote the play ‘Knock, ou la triomphe de la médicine’, a satire with a bold nod to his illustrious compatriot Molière in which the shadowy title character grips a group of fascinated, docile people and his will. imposes. Two years later, the first film version of the play was made, by René Hervil. Also in 1933 a movie version of ‘Knock’ was released. Romains’ story continued to fascinate film makers, as Guy Lefranc ventured into a new version in 1951, in which the legendary French comedian Louis de Funès can be seen in a small role and in which another well-known French comedic actor, Louis Jouvet (who also appeared in played the 1933 version), in one of his very last roles. You can safely call ‘Knock’ a classic, but the question is whether the twenty-first-century public is still waiting for the antics of the charming con man. The film version by writer/director Lorraine Lévy (‘Le fils de l’autre’, 2012), starring the French comic actor of the moment – Omar Sy – in the lead role, is too old-fashioned to entertain today’s discerning audience.
After his successful roles in ‘Intouchables’ (2011) and ‘Demain tout commence’ (2016), Sy can once again play an endearing good guy with a responsibility problem. Swindler Knock is on the run from his creditor Lansky (Pascal Elbé). His chance to escape presents itself on a silver platter: on a ship they are still looking for a ship’s doctor. Although he has no relevant diploma, Knock is nevertheless accepted under the motto ‘necessity breaks laws’ and miraculously he appears to have a talent for it. He also discovers that you can earn a lot of money with it, which definitely convinces him: he has found his calling. Once back on land, Knock decides to study medicine, and four years later he can work as the successor to the general practitioner of the sleepy mountain village of Saint Maurice. Although people have to get used to Knock and his working method, they are soon deeply impressed by this ‘miracle doctor’. Where in the past no one was ever sick, the waiting room is now filled with fellow villagers with all kinds of ailments. Because ‘healthy, that is someone who does not know that he is sick’, believes Knock. Just by listening to their complaints, Knock knows how to make tons of money. But his past is on his tail, especially when Lansky suddenly stands in front of him.
Nostalgia can be very nice. That friendly, cozy atmosphere of the past, in which people still greeted and trusted each other. Lévy tries to imitate such an atmosphere in ‘Dr. Knock’ but does not quite succeed, with the result that the ambiance is more stale than charmingly nostalgic. The fact that the humor is also rather bland and clumsy and that the characters are limited to one-dimensional figures – the alcohol-addicted postman, the apothecary’s wife, the stubborn farmer’s wife – makes this comedy more of a farce. Omar Sy can do more than just play the charming charlatan, now a director has to step up and dare to give him a more challenging role. He is by far the most interesting thing about ‘Dr. Knock’, and knows how to keep the attention with his natural charisma. But he too cannot save the film from the thin and superficial screenplay, the bland humor and the corny. The plot drags on without really working its way to a climax, unless it’s the scene in the church (at the end of the movie), where we finally see a glimmer of emotion and then get a glimpse of what Omar Sy has up his sleeve. But the damage has already been done.