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Feature


A documentary shot over twelve years, Knuckles shows us the story of two travelling families, the Quinn McDonaghs and the Joyces, their twenty to fifty year rivalry (depending on whose story you go with) and how the regular bare knuckle fights between the two families (as well as any other familes that want to get involved) brings the feud to a head and keeps the cycle of hatred going.

We'll train in a gym...
Knuckle is an absolutely fascinating insight into the world of bare knuckle fighting between the two travelling families. To begin with, the videos sent between the families, verbally abusing each other and calling out the other family is a whole world of darkness (and a tiny bit amusing) and seeing the youth of each family boiling with hatred and threats at such an early age is truly scary, especially considering the fact this stuff is happening and has been happening for years.

The players here are followed as they prepare for their fights. We see the family histories come up, the personal vendettas and the constant battles to get a rematch to avenge a previous family member's failing in a previous fight. It's crazy stuff and seeing these people over a twelve year period and how so much of their focus in centred on the beating the other family member is quite daunting.

On top of that the raw nature of the fights is shocking every time they’re shown. The straightforward nature of the fights are incredibly raw (usually involving the two fighters, two neutral referees and a small crowd in the middle of some wooded area or a farmyard) and each clump is felt. Also there’s the stuff happening off camera, shootings, attacks, moving house out of fear and just the family's reliance on the winnings from these fights. It really is quite shocking how big a part these feuds play in the lives of these families and the ongoing battles really highlight a way of life that feels a million miles away from everyday society.

...but we'll fight on a dirt track!

Video


Shot entirely with hand held camera there isn’t a lot of this documentary that's going to shine. It’s mostly raw footage catching the families training, fighting or planning a fight with the occasional better lit talking head interview (but even that seems to be with taking advantage of the sun’s position than actual controlled lighting). That said the image is pretty soft and pretty grainy depending on brightness of the sun and of course very realistic. Essentially the best way to describe it is for you to picture your own home videos from 2007 onwards but with various family members beating ten bells out of each other.

There's no age limits.

Audio


There’s a 2.0 and 5.1 selection here but there’s not a great deal of difference between them. Most of the track lives in the front speakers and of course the majority of the footage has been captured raw so there’s not a great deal of depth to the fights.

Ian Palmer’s narration is crisp and clear over the footage and the score has a nice presence too but again with this being a documentary, things are kept simple. It’s the families talking that’s the issue. Good luck trying to understand 50% of the talking here. The travellers' way of speaking is fast and loose and if you look away from the screen for more than a few seconds it can be like watching a foreign film. Luckily there’s a constant subtitle track (even though most of them stick to what is being implied as opposed to a word for word translation due to the mumbling nature of the dialect).

There's some top draw sponsorship.

Extras


As with most documentaries, everything you need to know is in the film so there’s nothing extra here.

And there's even celebrity guest appearance from Big Brother housemates.

Overall


Knuckle turned out to be a solid documentary that gave a fascinating insight into the world of bare knuckle fighting and travelling family feuds. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it and the thought that this stuff happens in such an accepted and organised way in modern society baffles me. Ian Palmer has delivered a great document of the darker side of the lives of these families and manages to give a balanced view of the positive and negatives feeling the fighting generates. Great stuff.


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