Movie Review: “Amanda Knox”

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It seems so ludicrous, now.

An American college student with a solid alibi and zero motive, almost no DNA evidence implicating her and no history of violence, arrested and convicted of taking part in a “sex party” ritualistic murder with her boyfriend of five days and another man she doesn’t even know.

“Italian Justice” never seemed like more of a punch line.

But Amanda Knox went through it, lost years of her life and wears the weight of that awful crime’s tsunami-sized ripple on her to this day.

The new Netflix documentary “Amanda Knox” lets us see how it happened, a years-in-the-making investigative film that interviews almost all the principals — from suspects to prosecutors — and paints a portrait of doubt, or at least lets us see how conclusions might have been reached by people you’d hope would know better.

“Italian Justice” indeed.

Filmmakers Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn followed the case, in Italy, for years — got to know the players and gained access to evidence footage, home movies, social media pages, leaked “secret” prison cell recordings and taped phone calls, all the stuff that prosecutor and detective fiction fan Giuliano Mignini looked at to decide that DNA evidence shouldn’t take precedence over his own gut instincts.

“I like Sherlock Holmes”

We get a hint of Italian mores and prejudices. American college girls studying abroad? Easy. Oversexed. And heck, she nicknamed herself “Foxy Knoxy.”

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She’s smooching on some Italian guy she met five days before the murder, at the CRIME SCENE as the cops are digging around a bloodied house with Meredith Kercher’s body still in it. A shallow, self-involved, foul-mouthed sexually active 20 year old, Knox didn’t grieve, didn’t seem to act the way Italians expect somebody to act under those circumstances.

She didn’t seem to take it in, didn’t act like somebody who SHOULD have thought, “Oh my God, I spent the night somewhere else, but that could have been ME,” or “If I’d been here, maybe I could have SAVED Meredith.” Knox, to do this, doesn’t articulate such thoughts.

Within a day or so of the crime, she was on the phone talking about “the best year of my life” to a friend, as if nothing awful had happened.

So, bad on her.

But again, her British roommate was a veritable stranger. They’d moved into the Perugia rental house together, sight-unseen, a couple of weeks before. Think of the self-absorbed 20 year old (Americans) you know and tell me the reaction is outside the norm.

Nick Pisa, the British freelance journalist out in front of the story, smirks about his “page one bylines” piling up as he unveiled “Foxy Knoxy” and painted the “girl on girl crime” picture that the British press, and then Italian and European press, picked up on.

And that, in turn, drove the harried prosecutors and demonized Knox in British and Italian public opinion. I love the reaction shot the filmmakers get of Pisa when the verdict is overturned.

“Who me? I knew she was innocent all along!” That’s the look.

Generous helpings of cable news coverage pepper the proceedings, raising the case’s profile. Who could get a fair trial anywhere under such circumstances?

The through-line interview that all this is built on is with a haggard, high-mileage Knox today, weeping at what went wrong, defiant at the conclusions the viewer must reach — that either she’s a diabolical murderess, cold-blooded, “a psychopath in sheep’s clothing.”

Or, “I am you.” This could have happened to anyone who doesn’t know local customs and mores, maybe a little shaky on the local language. It could happen to anyone.

A telling line, explaining her “reputation” in Italy — “In Seattle, I was cute. In Italy, I was the beautiful blonde American girl.” That was new to her. She’d never been in love, never been this far from home and family. She was 20.

The most chilling details — not necessarily new, but parked here all in one place — are the Italian police tactics revealed by the case. They told Knox she was HIV positive to break her. They leaned on her and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and he caved like the Italian Army in North Africa in 1941.

Video from the investigation shows Keystone Cops in Italian uniforms creating chaos at the crime scene. And there’s that ridiculous prosecutor, “a hero” to his people, admitting his “instints” and his love of melodramatic crime fiction.

See what I’m doing there? I’m playing on stereotypes, pre-conceived notions of how this culture could have produced this debacle. Because that’s exactly what the cocksure Giuliano Mignini did. And Italian appellate courts have done the same, reacting against “being lectured by the American media,” buttressed in their bigotry by the Brits and their rabid, race-to-wrong-conclusion press, hell bent on re-convicting her, mainly out of spite.

“Amanda Knox” may not change anybody’s mind. But it should. Sure, there’s doubt lingering around the fringes of the case, and Kercher’s family may be the last ones to give up the condemnation of the American they want to believe had a hand in Meredith’s death.

But in a part of the world where convicted murderers face far fewer consequences than punishment-crazy America would fling at them, maybe they should be a little less quick to indict those who look guilty simply through the lens of their culture.

3half-star

 

MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence crime scene footage, frank sexual conservation

Cast:Amanda Knox, Nick Pisa, Raffaele Sollecito,  Giuliano Mignini

Credits:Directed by Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn, script by Matthew Hamachek and Brian McGinn. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:32

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