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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Knuckle – Bare Fisted Fighting Irish Gypsy Documentary

“Knuckle” is a 2011 documentary about modern-day gypsy clans (aka “Travelers”) feuding in Ireland. Director Ian Palmer spends 12 years filming the Quinn McDonagh clan and their violent feud with the Joyce clan.

The feud is fuelled by a never ending cycle of insults and infrequent gang violence. The real and most common fighting between the clans occurs when each clan delivers one man to fight one on one, bare knuckle style. The fights are refereed and continue until one man is knocked out, quits or if the combatants agree to a draw via a handshake.

Fights are solicited via insulting videos sent between the clans. They contain a lot of yelling, swearing, personal insults and explanations of easily they will beat the other side up. The videos remind me so much of professional wrestling interviews that I had to chuckle at a few. That said, unlike pro wrestling, these threats and ensuing brawls are very real.

The fights in “Knuckle” are very bloody but are surprisingly watchable. Much like a National Hockey League fight there are no permanent injuries and nothing is ever truly resolved.
Ian Palmer interviews and documents the clan for 12 years but to my surprise comes away with very little information. When they aren’t fighting the Joyce’s, the Quinn McDonagh clan seems to be a very likeable bunch but what else? I would have loved to learn more about who these clans really are. What do these people do for a living besides bet on their fights? How do they support themselves? How is it they come to live in these compounds? What is the role of women (who are almost nonexistent in the film) within the clan?
I wish Palmer had have done more research outside the clan. The film lacks any explanation of gypsy culture. Without more background on the traveler clans the movie feels more like someone filming a backyard fight club rather than an informative documentary. Maybe this is what Palmer intended but honestly after 12 years of filming I was expecting Palmer’s experience to reveal something more in depth.

That is not to say the audience has nothing to learn from the film. “Knuckle” shows us the thin line that separates our internal need for peace and our blood lust. With any warring nations, tribes, cultures, ethnic groups and religions there is that never ending he said-she said cycle of insults and violence that never ends. One fuels the other. The Quinn McDonagh / Joyce feud is the perfect example of these forever wars on a smaller scale. People fighting for so long they aren’t even sure why anymore. They just hate.

I admit, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this film. It never lost my interest. When the film was over though, I thought it could have offered more.


More Movie Reviews By TurtleDog... See How I Rated

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