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Saturday 16 December 2017

Film Review: Knuckle ***

(15A, Limited release)

BLOODY: Knuckle succeeds only
to sensationalise 'fair fighting'
BLOODY: Knuckle succeeds only to sensationalise 'fair fighting'

Paul Whitington

Filmmaker Ian Palmer spent 12 years investigating the murky world of so-called 'fair fighting' after meeting a man called James Quinn McDonagh at a Traveller wedding.

Depending on your point of view, fair fights -- bare-knuckle boxing bouts between representatives of rival clans -- are either a comparatively harmless way of letting off steam that would otherwise erupt into full-scale wars, or a barbaric hangover from a long discredited 19th-century rural tradition.

Quinn McDonagh is the champion of his clan, and regularly accepts challenges from bitter rivals.

In Knuckle, we get vicarious glimpses of roadside fights between hefty men as ruthlessly violent as they are undoubtedly brave.

What the ancient family feuds that cause the fights are about no one seems able to remember, but it's probably more a case of top dogs confirming their status.

McDonagh constantly proclaims his distaste for fighting and his desire to stop, but he's not very convincing and neither are Palmer's protestations that he's sickened by it all.

Knuckle could have offered an intriguing glimpse into a hidden, alternative society, but in the end it just feels like middle-class voyeurism, and Palmer's treatment of a climactic fight succeeds only in sensationalising something rather pathetic, and sad.

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