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on December 22, 2011
Knuckle is an interesting view into a world unknown to me. I had talked with a few coworkers who had worked in England for some time and they had described this Irish Traveler culture to me. I found this film to really fit the bill of showing this community from the inside. Their culture promotes fighting (bare knuckle fighting as the title does imply), to solve differences between families. This is not a movie for children, or those who do not want to see physical violence or blood. Take this R rating seriously. There are multiple scenes where real bare knuckle fighting takes place, and people get bloody in most. The rules are simple, two men fight until one get's knocked out, or someone's said they've had enough. Often times there are 10s of thousands of pounds on the line for the big fights. Only punching is allowed and if someone is knocked down, they cannot be hit until they are back up. Some of the video in this movie is not the highest resolution, but it does the job. It's real life. For movie buffs, this is the reality of Brad Pitt's character (Mickey O'Neil) in Guy Ritchie's film Snatch.
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This is a hard documentary to judge, Ian Palmer spent twelve years on and off filming the ongoing feud between rival clans of travellers - the sad fact is that they are all related. The main character is James Quinn-MacDonnagh, he seems to be unbeatable and is therefore the subject of most invitations to fight. The feuding has been going on for some time and they are reluctant to talk about the past, but eventually do.

Palmer first met them when he was videoing one of their weddings, he then got invited to record a fight. These fights take place away from the families to avoid an all out riot and are refereed by a third family to ensure it is a fair fight. Joe Joyce seems to be the main protagonist and does come across as a man who will never quite grow up, the language and attitude is quite often only comparable to that of the playground. One of the reasons that Michael gives for continuing to return to the `ring' or more accurately waste land/car park, is the purse which is quite considerable, and they do seem to attempt to drink the majority of it as soon as possible.

A fight is only ended with a knock out or a submission or a draw. This means a fight can go on for hours - with no comfort breaks. They also make insulting videos which they send to each other to encourage, - you guessed it, yet more fights. Whilst this behaviour is basically feral the insults lack imagination too, with such heinous rebukes as `baldy b@stard' and `monkeys' - that's enough to make anyone want to go for three hours bare knuckle wrangling in a pub car park.

Palmer attempts to bring in judgement which for a documentary is probably off the scale; even the music is all sad and regretful, a bit like the end music to `The Incredible Hulk'. He interviews some of the women who more or less think it should stop, he shows the children at the age of seven already looking forward to having a go themselves, that is a better way to juxtapose what is happening elsewhere on screen. There are some who will criticise this for what it leaves out, like the social damage that traveller's life style costs the more fixed population, but that is not the subject of Palmers' film, and he does say at one point he was wearying of the whole thing. However, it holds together really well, it is both human and illuminating; it is also violent, juvenile and sad.

Partly sponsored by the Irish Film Board, this runs for an hour and a half; there is interest from HBO to make this into a series, so there is a lot to warrant merit here, I just found it very hard to actually `like', it is also sub titled but I did not need them and it can be seen as a bit insulting, after all they are speaking English albeit with a strong accent. Still all in all Palmer should be praised for his efforts, I just wonder at this as being sold as a fight fest when it should be more social commentary.
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on June 19, 2012
Welcome to modern-day Ireland's version of the Hatfield and McCoy family dispute. Everything about this tale of interfamilial feuding speaks to the quaint, the bizarre,the nasty, the complex and humorous in human relations. The two parties in this on-going squabble are the Joyces from near Dublin and the Quinns from around Dundalk. These two clans are connected through marriages over the past fifty years and are part of that growing community of itinerant workers and families called travellers or gypsies(not Romany)who live in caravans or bungalows. The filmmaker, in this film, documents both where the bad blood between these two interrelated groups originated and how and why they choose to keep it going trough succeeding generations. Gradually, the story comes out that the initial incident happened in England on a job site years ago when a family member of the Joyces was killed by somebody from the Quinns in a bitter argument, and nobody has since found in his heart the need to forgive. As far as blood feuds go, this one has an interesting twist to it: every year, the hatred and tension between the two warring groups is worked out in bare-knuckle fights convened on back country roads between hand-picked champions. While stakes are high(thousands of dollars plus bragging rights) the quality of pugilism is akin to lampoonish barroom brawling that amounts at best to clutching, grabbing, biting, kneeing, and scratching. Lots of fun in watching grown men act like silly toddlers over issues that have no bearing in reality. The director Palmer does a marvellous job getting inside this dysfunctional community to determine what makes them tick.
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on July 20, 2014
I thought this would be a compelling film about a traditional, fabled "traveler" culture in the Irish isles. It isn't. It's a contrived story, basically following around a family of low lifes (I mean real "trailer trash" type of people) and melodramatically (and laughably) presenting their conflicts as stories that the viewer should care about. I stopped sympathizing with the characters two minutes into the film. Their "inter-clan" rivalries are clearly just conflicts between groups of uneducated, boorish people who happen to be in Ireland. There is no observation of a subculture involved here, at all. This is not a tale of ancient Irish tradition bleeding into modern times. It's a tale of a bunch of trashy morons who like to fight, and frankly it could have been set in any country where there are broke, boorish scumbags. I know that is harsh, but it is frankly all this movie left me with. One can tell that the filmmaker thought he had something special when he started filming this; he didn't...

FYI, there were YouTube videos of some of these bare-knuckle fights available way before this movie came out. I remember seeing them. So the auteur (eye roll) apparently took his project of filming Irish losers fighting in the street and tried to make a compelling documentary out of it. How do you say "fail" in Gaelic?
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on May 5, 2013
As a child, John Paul Moorehouse (John Connors) watched his father get killed in a drive by. The culprit was never found. He was raised by his uncle to be a fighter. The Moorehouse family is involved in a feud with the Powers clan who far outnumber them. Their lands are separated by private property whose owner is not keen on trespassers.

As you may have guessed John Paul has a love interest in the Powers clan, Winnie (Carla McGlynn) someone he knew as a child.

The film is an interesting look at the Travellers who marry young in prearranged marriages and not always by the wishes of the bride. The sound track for this film is diverse with traditional songs being used as well as Johnny Cash and contemporary music. I was most intrigued by the old photos during the opening credits.

The film didn't have much linear plot movement. It consisted of back and forth between the families. I enjoyed the characters, dialogue, and occasional humor.

Parental Guide: F-bomb. No sex or nudity.
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on December 28, 2012
Having never left the continental United States, I assume that I have limited knowledge as to how the rest Of the world Operates. My knowledge Of Pikeys comes mostly via movies. To follow the Quinn-McDonough(?) Family around for ten years is freaking awesome. I understand the concept Of settling feuds by fighting rather than all Out war, but its a bit sad to see 60 year Old grandfathers duking it Out. The drunken YouTube videos just add fuel to the fire.I felt very drawn towards James, whom the video focuses On. It seems as though he would like to escape the madness but keeps getting dragged back in in Order to protect his families name. Great documentary.
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on April 12, 2012
This is a great book that shows non travellers a look inside of some of the traveller culture..And it isnt fair that people judge a whole breed of other humans..so take the time to learn a little about the lifstyle of travellers in the uk,and bareknuckle boxing is not what travellers do all the time..they only do it to work out there family disputes without bringing the outside world in there business..Enjoy reading this book...then check out the movie called knuckle..Both are great!
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on January 18, 2013
Two hours of watching what in America would be called White Trash slug each other and perpetuate a meaningless feud. It's depressing to watch and the film-maker, to his credit, expresses incredulity at his own interest in these people, who are not interesting. Then again, I did finish watching this.

Also, these guys can't fight their way out of a paper bag. A 16 year old Golden Glover would make mincemeat out of any of them.
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on February 26, 2013
This is a great film if you like the documentary style, because that's what it is. No effects, reenactments or stunt-doubles. Just raw film and good editing of men who live to fight. A great gift for the person who likes fighting, combat and roudy fun.
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on April 28, 2015
I was wary of the of the 2011 documentary "Knuckle," assumed to be yet another examination of man's brutality. What I discovered was a fascinating study of tribal humanity. Please note, this is a violent film inappropriate for children or impressionable young teens.

I have read much on the Native Americans who once roamed the U.S. plains for untold years. The nomads' favorite pastime was to raid neighboring tribes to steal women and horses. Occasionally they would count coup, and sometimes, though this was not the norm, they would kill a warrior. For years afterwards they would regale these raids around campfires and then the following evening, go on yet another raid. I was reminded of this tradition when watching "Knuckle."

Ireland's traveler clans (Irish Travellers, Tinkers No More) are gypsy-like itinerant groups dating back hundreds of years. They too are nomadic, living in trailers or RVs, moving across the land. They go by the storied names of Yeats, Quinn and McDonagh, oftentimes cousins marrying cousins, as intertwined as the Hatfields and McCoys. Everyone's related and as this documentary shows, feuds run deep and ugly. Scores are settled by bare-knuckle fights held at a desolate crossroads, usually framed by an ancient stone wall covered in moss. The men strip off their shirts to reveal nice beer guts and tattoos, and duke it out for sometimes hours at a time until one quits. It's a bloody mess, though played by a surprisingly set of stringent rules not allowing kicking or biting, with neutral refs continuously screaming "Break!" when they grapple from sweaty exhaustion.

The winner becomes a great source of pride for the family, their victory told for months afterwards. These families exchange videos insulting rivals, asking for rematches. As this documentary details, the cycle of feuds goes on for years. Director Ian Palmer stumbled upon these fights when asked to videotape a wedding of a McDonagh in the 1990's. From there, he was asked to film a fight, thus began a decade-long examination of the secretive practices of the Irish traveler clans. He wisely uses subtitles during the film, as the Irish accents are as thick as century-old whiskey.

I had a good friend who viewed this documentary and was repulsed. My response, "Better fists than guns." I have no doubt after viewing this film the Irish traveler clans live in essential poverty, and these fights were a form of escape, a way to spice the humdrum existence of an incredibly arduous life. The greatest fault of "Knuckle," operating on a low budget, was a lack of history of the Irish traveler clans in addition to details as to how these people live day to day.

I appreciated Palmer's attempt to get to the root of this feud, and a man lugs out an old suitcase filled with snapshots. It appears one man was accidentally killed after a pub brawl, and another served time in jail for manslaughter, thus the fights began to defend family names.

I couldn't help be recall John Ford's The Quiet Man (60th Anniversary Special Edition) [Blu-ray], taking place in Ireland and starring John Wayne. That film detailed the Irish custom of settling differences with fist-a-cuffs, with Wayne's character, a former boxer having killed a man in the ring, no longer comfortable with violence. As the famous film shows, fighting is ingrained in the Irish culture, a source of pride. While I doubt modern-day Ireland resembles Ford's classic tale, Palmer shows that amidst the country's rural locales these ancient traditions continue. Ultimately, such behavior is a microcosm of nations at war, fighting for untold generations for reasons, hidden in an old suitcase, long forgotten.
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