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4.4 out of 5 stars40
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 December 2011
As far as what interests me when it comes to documentaries, I would've put a gypsy feud and the resultant bare knuckle fights as a low priority but after a recommendation from a friend, I decided to give this a rental. I was surprised by how the fights continue, years after feuds, some bare knuckle fights taking as long as six hours between the two families. The set-up is interesting. Nobody but the fighters from each family are allowed to attend, with the spectators being from other gypsy families. They have 'fair play referees' who make sure the rules of gypsy fighting are adhered to and it works unbelievably well, with a strange hint of gentleman behaviour in the brutish fights. I definately recommend this for a viewing. 3.5/5
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As someone who loves all forms of combat, self defence, and martial arts, and whose father knew a few gypsy prize fighters - this is a world that has always fascinated me, yet I have never really been able to find out much about... until now.

With a keen interest in this secretive world, I would read stories of Gypsy Kings such as Bartly Gorman, and watch traveller documentaries and fights on Youtube - and because of this, many of the faces and names in this documentary were already familiar to me.

Recently, Gypsies (or travellers as they prefer to be know) are something of a novelty with the media and the subject of public fascination, but Knuckle is a documentary that has been 12 years in the making; it was underway long before the recent interest and so is honest in every way, with no media 'spin'.

Director, Ian Palmer, started filming bare-knuckle fights after being invited to film a gypsy wedding. Next, he was asked to film a bare-knuckle bout and was then accepted into the community - after filming that first fight he was hooked, and in his own words, started 'hanging around' with the films main characters to find out more.

What resulted was a fascination and appreciation for the men and the traveller culture, plus the chance to shine a spotlight on the tradition and show it in a different light. It's always easy to judge things without knowing the full story, and Knuckle will go someway to disparage the view that prize fights are just brutality for brutality's sake... nothing could be further from the truth.

I remember the same thing happened when MMA first became popular, with MPs calling for it to be banned and mothers calling it barbaric and senseless, mindless violence. Well, if they'd taken the time to find out more about what they were commenting on, they'd realise nothing could be further from the truth. The same applies to 'fair-fights' (as the traveller community call these organised matches to settled family fueds and disputes).

Gypsy life, and in particular bare-knuckle fighting, is a world that most people will never be able to understand - especially as it's a world we'll never, ever really be let into and can only ever view from the outside. But this documentary gives us a glimpse of that world and the traditions that underpin this activity (for want of a better word), going someway to explain it and dispel the myths - plus confirm a few too. All in all, it makes for a riveting watch whether you appreciate pugilism or not.

Given my interests, I think Knuckle is a must see, but I think it's a film most men will enjoy and find fascinating too. So Knuckle-up and enjoy the ride. Growing up, in the school yard you learn the mantra 'never get into a fight with a gypsy'... and after watching this, I can confirm - that mantra is indeed true.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 September 2011
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 25 November 2012
Director Ian Palmer spent a decade in the suburbs, drumlins and back alleys of the streets of Ireland putting together one of the most poignant glimpses of Irish life in recent memory. This is a tale of the Irish Travelers, people who would be called 'trailer trash' here in the USA. Like our trailer folks, the Travelers are people like you and me, making home videos, strugglng to make ends meet, providing for their families and hoping to give the next generation a direction for the future. Unfortunately, some misguidance comes in the form of family pride, creating feuds between relatives over slights both real and imagined. This flick highlights a conflict between the Quinns and the Mc Donaghs, blood cousins who trade videotaped insults after heated incidents that are eventually resolved by bareknuckle fights between champions of each cause. The fights were meant to be the focal point of the documentary, but most will come away with an indelible vision of life in the backwoods of Ireland and how loyalty, pride and determination both exalts and defeats this unforgettable group of people.
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on 16 August 2011
Always interested in watching a good documentary, and Knuckle is a blistering one. It's the 12 year story of two Irish traveller families whose feud is never-ending, and frequently erupts into bare-knuckle fights. It's a gritty look at a world that I didn't really know much about. The 12 years spent by the filmmaker with his subjects have clearly led to a great understanding of the community. The fights may be tough to watch but the film is hard to forget. It seems that it's also being remade as an HBO drama series, so it's worth checking out the original now to see what the fuss is about.
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on 10 August 2011
This has been a great year for documentaries and Knuckle is another fascinating film to add to the list. It's about warring Irish traveller families who settle disputes through bare knuckle fights. Gyspy stories have become popular since My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, and this film takes a look at a ritual which is just as bizarre. The fights are hardcore, and the characters are hard to forget. Knuckle is gritty and brutal, but also really enjoyable
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on 14 March 2013
This Is a good look up close at gypsy bare knuckle fighting, the fight scenes are as you expect and some of the interviews are quite intriguing.

It basically follows a format of; this is who is fighting, this is why they are fighting, here is the fight.

I don't think it really developed the characters as well as it could have, after all for 12 years of filming we are presented with an hour and half of the footage, so maybe it could have been a bit longer to delve deeper Into some of the fighters psyches and experiences.

Definitely give it a go if you are interested in travellers or underground fighting. Just don't expect a deep documentary driven by the characters within.
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on 22 December 2014
Embarrassing to see flabby, uneducated old men trying to show how macho they are, threatening each other, sending out childish videos to each other and basically reveling in acting like low-lives.
Audio rather low, couldn't hear the narration very well. Which is a shame as the narrator was the intelligent input in the film.
I have spoken to some travelers I know and they have said they feel the barbaric behaviour in this film has damaged their dignity and is definitely NOT how they want to be portrayed and nothing they want to be associated with.
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on 10 December 2011
A good documentary/film about the way of the Irish Traveller. It's good to see people with their own codes and laws outside the 'system', especially in this day and age. This film shows the true Gypsy spirit. And, no one innocent gets hurt, just men who want to engage in a good old fashioned punch-up, there's no weapons, foul-play or cowardice here. If politicians had the balls to settle their grievances like this, we'd all be in a better place. These are not spineless academics, these are real people with principles.
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on 12 November 2011
Very good documentary. Unfortunately, I learned about one of the most retarded marketing gimmicks when I purchased this dvd. Region codes should be done away with. I legally purchased this dvd and should be able to watch it from my legally purchased dvd player, but the movie corporation has found another way to screw the little guy. No wonder people think of ways to screw them back. Anyway, I was able to watch it on my computer.
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