Knuckle Review

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A documentary charting the brutal business of bare-fist fighting in the Irish traveller community.


The fights may lack the dynamism of the donnybrook in John Ford’s The Quiet Man, but Ian Palmer’s insight into how Irish traveller families still resort to fisticuffs to settle disputes more than atones in raw power. The Quinn McDonagh and Joyce clans are equally garrulous and ready to give their side of a feud that has been rumbling since the early ’90s. But it’s the footage of past bouts and the seething hatred emanating from the challenge videos that hooks Palmer, who admits to becoming unhealthily fascinated by the posturing and ritual surrounding each showdown. The main focus falls on undefeated James Quinn McDonagh. But characters like his brother Michael, Big Jim Joyce and Ditsy Nevin ensure there is never a dull moment.

Chock full of larger-than-life characters, it's an enthralling insight into a raw, bloodied world.