Knuckle (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

Knuckle (2011)



Critic Consensus: A gritty documentary that captures the brutality and banality of bare-knuckle fights among Irish Travellers.

Movie Info

An epic 12-year journey into in the world of an Irish Traveller community, Knuckle takes us inside their brutal, secretive and exhilarating bare-knuckle fighting lives. Chronicling a history of violent feuding between rival families, the story focuses on two brothers as they fight for their reputations and the honour of their family name. Brutal, yet captivating and ultimately moving, this unforgettable documentary offers an exclusive insight into the world of Irish Travellers and the lengths they will go to protect their family name. -- (C) Official Sitemore
Rating: R (for violent content and language)
Genre: Documentary, Drama, Art House & International
Directed By:
Written By: Ian Palmer
In Theaters:
On DVD: Feb 7, 2012
Box Office: $2.6k
Vitagraph Films - Official Site

Watch it now


Ian Palmer
as Ian Palmer, Narrato...

News & Interviews for Knuckle

Critic Reviews for Knuckle

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (12)

Palmer's film is brutally compelling to look at, as the lads get down to face-rearranging, but it also carries a lot of tragic historical freight.

Full Review… | December 9, 2011
New York Post
Top Critic

While it's frustrating that Mr. Palmer doesn't dig deep into the complexities of the fights, one of the movie's strengths is the honesty with which he confesses his doubts about them.

Full Review… | December 8, 2011
New York Times
Top Critic

Though you will wish for more polish and insight, its unruly action is hard to resist.

Full Review… | December 8, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Knuckle largely skirts exploitation, simply by virtue of showing this conflict perpetuate itself over so many years. Clans like the Quinn McDonaghs and the Joyces seem destined to fight for generations after they've forgotten their rationale.

Full Review… | December 8, 2011
Top Critic

While the film becomes slightly redundant, the anger and strife its characters cannot overcome is awful, poetic and, frankly, astonishing.

Full Review… | December 8, 2011
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Knuckle is a documentary about feuding families of Irish Travelers who settle their grudges with bare-knuckle boxing matches, so it's bound to be inherently fascinating, regardless of how well it's assembled.

Full Review… | December 8, 2011
AV Club
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Knuckle


" Twelve years. Three clans. One war."

An epic 12-year journey into the brutal and secretive world of Irish Traveler bare-knuckle fighting. This film follows a history of violent feuding between rival clans.

A real life Irish Fight Club? This brutally honest, raw and disturbing documentary uncovers a startling story of a family feud that follows a rather bizarre course. For several decades, the traveling Quinn McDonagh family has been fighting with their cousins the Joyces, in an ongoing feud that makes the Hatfield McCoy feud seem like a minor family spat. Although the origins seem hazy now, each generation seemingly is determined to keep the feud going. Every couple of years male members of these rival clans meet in some back road or remote farm yard to try and resolve their differences through bouts of bare knuckle fights. Essentially it's brothers fighting cousins, and some of these fights last for barely a few brutal minutes. Not only is family honour and masculine pride at stake, but there is also a substantial monetary prize for the winner. There are also rules to be observed, which are enforced by a couple of neutral referees. Documentary filmmaker Ian Palmer stumbled upon this fascinating story when he was invited to film a wedding by James Quinn McDonagh, the formidable leader of his clan. Even though he is now past his prime, James has never lost a bout.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

Like many great documentaries, Knuckle was born out of something else. It originally began as a wedding video. Ian Palmer found something so interesting about his guests, he ventured further and discovered the world of Irish travelling bare knuckle boxing. Most specifically he follows the feud between two clans of the same family, The McDonaghs and the Joyces. So after that wedding video, Palmer ended up documenting this feud and these fights for 12 years. This extraordinary amount of time puts the whole thing into perspective about the needlessness and absurdity of violence. Many say the feud goes back 50 years, and yet nobody gives a straight answer as to its origins. People hold grudges and plan rematches 9 years down the line. It becomes obvious that fighting has become an addiction and a way of life for these poor men. They have nothing else to do. When we see the acclaim they receive from their families, it's easy to see why they have been so taken in by aggression. In the first fight James McDonagh says it will be his last, but it's far from it. He seems genuine about his wanting to quit, but he always ends up in another fight. Even the director talks about how he continued filming just for the thrill, and had lost sight of his documentary. Every fight is brutal in that realistic sense, and Palmer clearly paints a vivid picture of this strange world. Aggressive men, but loving husbands and fathers. Fights that are fought for lack of reason, but are controlled and fair with a sense of honour. Knuckle is the kind of film that lures you in with basic blood lust, but gives you a whole lot more.

Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer


It was somewhat interesting. However, nobody that fights in the movie is actually that skilled. Also, I don't see the problem with allowing them to fight yeah none of them could actually hurt one another.

Knuckle Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss Knuckle on our Movie forum!