Sundance Film Festival
Director: Ian Palmer
When you walk out of a film like “KNUCKLE”, you truly question your masculinity and what you’re willing to risk physically defending you and your family’s reputation. For over ten years, director Ian Palmer has documented an ongoing feud between a handful of traveler families (think Brad Pitt’s character in Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch”) in Ireland. Rather than sorting out their grievances with a chat and a shot of Jameson, these clans send their toughest to duke it out in bloody bare knuckle boxing matches. James Quinn McDonagh is the leader of the McDonagh clan and has never lost a bout, which is a fact that has not gone over too well with the other clans. Constantly proclaiming his retirement, James is repeatedly provoked back into the ring with taunting videos distributed by his rivals. Palmer captures a brutally honest tale of honor and greed. His intimate interviews reveal a disturbing portrayal of a group’s negligence to understand the foundation of their hatred, which began with a murder in 1992 which most contenders are either unaware or don’t care to discuss. What started as a means of defending a family’s name has turned into a profitable gambling circuit where honor has vacated the premises entirely, and Palmer performs an exceptional job as a documentarian in pulling that truth from his subjects. The most shocking component of Palmer’s film comes from the raw footage of two grown men (sometimes even grandfathers) hammering blows upon each other without remorse. It’s an unsettling glimpse at the capability of humanity’s hatred toward one another.