Once upon a time, Casey Rhodes (Beau Mirchoff) was a football star. He was a quarterback. Everyone expected great things from him. He was going to be the next Tom Brady. But then a knee injury took him out of the game and a subsequent drug addiction took him out of mainstream society. Now, Casey makes his living pulling off robberies. He may be a criminal but he’s not a bad-hearted one. He may carry a gun but he tries not to shoot anyone who doesn’t shoot at him first. Working with him are a former baseball player named Mike (Trevor Getzky) and Nikki (Keeya King), who is the smartest member of the crew.
Despite Casey’s attempts to do his job with as little violence as possible, a gunfight does break out during one robbery in Los Angeles. When Detectives James Knight (Bruce Willis) and his partner, Eric Fitzgerald (Lochlyn Munro), interrupt the robbery, Fitzgerald ends up getting shot multiple times as Casey and his crew make their escape. With Fitzgerald in the hospital, Knight decides to follow the crew to New York and take out both them and their boss, a former Internal Affairs officer named Winna (Michael Eklund). It turns out that there’s a history between Knight and Winna. Knight wants his revenge on Winna but, at the same time, Winna knows some dark secrets from Knight’s past.
Though it works as a stand-alone film, 2022’s Detective Knight: Rogue is actually the first part of a trilogy that follows the adventures of Detective Knight. (Detective Knight: Redemption was released at the end of 2022 while Detective Knight: Independence came out last month.) The Detective Knight films were among the last of the movies in which Bruce Willis appeared before announcing his retirement. It can be strange to watch Willis’s final films, knowing what we know about what he was going through at the time that he made them. Though he’s definitely the star of the film, Willis is used sparingly in Detective Knight: Rogue and there’s little of the cocky attitude that we tend to associate with Willis’s best roles. Instead, he’s a grim avenger, determined to get justice for both his partner and himself. Willis is convincing in the role, even if the film is edited in such a way that the viewer gets the feeling that a stand-in may have been used for some of the long-shots involving Detective Knight. That said, Willis still looks convincing carrying a badge and a gun and it’s nice to see a Willis film where he’s again playing a hero instead of a villain.
As the football player-turned-thief, Beau Mirchoff gets more screentime than Willis but, fortunately, Casey is an interesting character and Mirchoff gives a strong performance as a criminal who would rather be a family man and who is desperately looking for a way to make up for the mistakes of his past. Towards the end of the film, he does a flawless job delivering a surprisingly well-written monologue about how he went from being a football star to being a common thief. Mirchoff’s strong performance adds a good deal of ambiguity to the film. The criminals aren’t necessarily that bad at heart and, as we learn, the good guys haven’t always been angels in the past. Detective Knight: Rogue becomes more than just another low-budget thriller. It becomes a meditation of regret and redemption.
Detective Knight: Rogue took me by surprise. As directed by Edward Drake (who was also responsible for another effective late Bruce Willis starrer, Gasoline Alley), it’s an intelligent thriller and it’s one that pays tribute to Bruce Willis as an action icon. It’s proof that a good story can sometimes be found where you least expect it.