'Knuckle' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello
Director: Ian Palmer
Starring: James Quinn-McDonagh, Michael Quinn-McDonagh and Ian Palmer
The violent world of bare-knuckle boxing has long been a secret one, as the community who largely embarks in the sport, the nomadic Travellers, remain silent about certain aspects of their lifestyle. But two rival Irish Traveller families, the Quinn-McDonaghs and the Joyces, allow filmmaker Ian Palmer into their elusive world, to show their long-standing hatred of each other. The first-time director surprisingly shows the families’ pressure to fight for the honor of their name and the need for revenge.
‘Knuckle’ chronicles the fight between the Quinn-McDonagh and Joyce families, who are distant relatives but are separated by a feud that has lasted generations. The heads of the rivaling families, James and Paddy, train their traveling clans in the long-standing Irish tradition, bare-knuckle boxing. Palmer takes on double duty by narrating the film, which explores the Quinn-McDonagh and Joyces’ feelings of loyalty and their pressure to fight each other.
Palmer took an interesting filming approach while shooting ‘Knuckle,’ as he didn’t initially develop a clear slant and direction of what exactly he wanted to document. When he was asked by James and his brothers, Michael and Paddy, to showcase the life of the Quinn-McDonaghs, Palmer knew little of the hidden lifestyle of Travelling families. After occasionally shooting fights between the two families, between 1997 and 2009, the director captured the true bond between the close-knit Quinn-McDonaghs, and their desire to defend one another.
One of the more astonishing aspects of ‘Knuckle’ and the Travelling lifestyle is the fact that they believe in Fair Fights, despite their competitiveness and rivalries amongst each other. For each fight, both sides choose a neutral referee from a non-dueling family, in an effort to fairly choose the winner and protect the fighters. The families also aren’t allowed to attend the actual fight, in an effort to keep the fighters focused. With the Travellers’ sense of loyalty and pride, it’s surprising the families don’t want to watch the fights to support each other.
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