Review by Jack Foley
IAN Palmer’s Knuckle is a flawed but no less riveting insight into the world of Irish travellers and bare knuckle brawling.
Constructed over the course of 12 years, it focuses on three families and the feuds that shaped their lives, and which culminated every once in a while with a series of ‘Fair Fights’ overseen by referees and offering a multi-thousand pound purse to the winner.
Primary among these families is undefeated champion James Quinn McDonagh and his brother, Michael, the former of who talks candidly about his views on fighting and his regret at the name it has given him.
Palmer’s direction, meanwhile, is gritty in the extreme, exposing the ugly brutality of the bare knuckle world as seen through the bloody faces of its battered pugilists, as well as the sometimes trivial ‘insults’ that trigger each fight.
He also delves a little deeper, too, to examine the effect of the fights on the families as a whole, including the women and children who either dislike or admire and want to emulate the testosterone and fearlessness on show.
What ensues is a highly engrossing account of the travellers’ way of life and culture that grips even if you don’t really like many of the characters inhabiting it.
Of the flaws, Palmer’s film perhaps could benefit from being a little more probing, especially given that it sometimes raises the suspicion that some of the interviewees are saying the right thing for the camera.
While the greater understanding it seeks to provide into the travellers’ way of life doesn’t necessarily translate to sympathy or anything that can be condoned.
But as a raw antidote to some of Hollywood’s more OTT fist fights, this offers a sobering reality that delivers a suitably lasting blow.
Watch the trailer:
Running time: 96mins
UK DVD Release: September 5, 2011