- Directors: Ian Palmer
- Producers: Ian Palmer, Teddy Leifer
- Format: PAL
- Language: English
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Revolver Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: 5 Sept. 2011
- Run Time: 85 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B0050JAN5S
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,790 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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How do you resolve a long running family feud? By brutal, bare-knuckle fist fights, of course. At least you do if you re the Joyce or Quinn-McDonagh families... The Irish travellers have been fighting for so long that they can no longer agree quite how it started. Over a decade, director Ian Palmer is given unlimited access their world, where generations of men exchange threatening videos, then meet up regularly on quiet Irish lanes to beat the life out of each other. Charismatic James McDonagh swears that every fight is his last if only he can learn to turn down the sizeable purse which comes with each win...
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.