Let me start this week by saying I really thought nobody would read the last installment simply because I didn't think anyone really cared about documentaries anymore. Well way to prove me wrong Screened, I'm out five bucks on a bet but it was worth it because that was awesome to see so many people intrigued by the idea of learning more about documentaries. But last week I picked something pretty mainstream, something that already had a lot of buzz going for it, and my screenname is obscurefan, shouldn't I pick at least one movie that nobody else has heard of? No, it's my blog and I'll pick whatever I want... oh alright, I'll get all hipster on you guys and pick something I doubt any of you have seen (I doubt that because I'm the only person who has rated it on this site so far). The movie I'm talking about is not for the faint of heart, it's not for the weak kneed, it's not for... well actually it's not really for anyone. However it's so crazy I still have to talk about it. That movie, is Knuckle.
Now I know that this poster already makes you go "Sooooo... what? This is a documentary about MMA fighters or something?" Nope, because that film would still have some kind of structure to it, it would be a competition inside of a ring with professional fighters. This movie is about two Irish clans (although a third one eventually gets introduced) who for the past twelve years (even more than that but this is how long the film has been recording it) have been meeting simply so they can beat the crap out of each other in these "King of the Travelers" matches. Now before you totally tune out, before you go "oh, really? That's what this is about? That sounds just stupid, it sounds like bum fights or something else just horrible and bad for humanity as a whole." And while it's not that bad, and there is a story and characters and highs and lows to this tale... this still isn't that great of a documentary. The movie is actually made by someone who is not a professional filmmaker, he is literally just a guy who a decade ago was filming a wedding, and then one of the clansmen saw this guy with the camera, came up to him and said "Hey we're going to beat the crap out of this other family, you want to come and film it?" So this isn't a very well put together film because the guy making it really just put everything he had filmed together and didn't realize how to appropriately structure it. Not to mention, as I said this is kind of hard to watch.
So why am I recommending you watch it? Because this is quite possibly the craziest movie I've seen in years. I say this because these clansmen are so wild and crazy that if you saw them as characters in a scripted film, you'd say "oh that isn't real at all," and yet they actually are real. Here's an example of what I'm talking about. This movie was made by an Irish filmmaker, put together by an Irish film crew, put out into theaters by an Irish production company, and yet these two clansmen, every single one of them, have such thick Irish accents that every single one of them had to be subtitled because even the guys making the film had no idea what they were saying. Remember that scene in Hot Fuzz where they meet that guy living up on the farm with a barn full of weapons, and he's so removed from society that his accent is so thick they have to get a translator, and this translator even needs a translator? Remember that? Yeah, imagine families full of guys just like that, pumped up on that rage virus from 28 Days Later, and you've got an idea of these people. And these families aren't the Hackfields and McCoys, just two families shooting at each other from a distance. These guys are so nuts, that early in the movie the police have to shut down a part of the town, because the families were going to fight there, and if they did they would destroy... well everything. That's right, it took 200 police officers to keep just twelve guys from fighting each other. Everytime they moved onto another member of the family I just had to drop my jaw and go "This guy is fake right? He's totally a character actor and not a real human being right?" And if that wasn't enough, each member of the family makes videos, where they tell the other family what they want to do to them and how they're going to kick the crap out of them, and then send it to the family for them to watch. It's like those professional wrestling clips you see where some big muscly guy says "When I get you in that ring I'm going to pound you into the ground brother," except that this isn't a show, these guys actually want to murder one another, and they're either stupid or crazy enough to video tape themselves saying it.
But once you go beyond just the initial shock of how crazy this whole situation is, you start to find out the origin of their feud and you see that there's actually a very soap opera style tail woven in here (and I mean that in a good way). You learn that this all began when a member of this clan married his cousin, which once again, that should tell you the quality of character we're dealing with. But one night after coming out of a bar, he ends up killing a member of the other clan, so now the two clans go to war but realize that they need rules because otherwise the cops will just break them up and arrest them, so they organize these bare knuckled brawls. And its interesting seeing how these brawls, while still crazy, have some sense of rules to them. Like they all put money into the match so that the winner actually walks away with something, and there is a great moment in the film where a man who used to be the biggest baddest member of his clan says that he is done with the fighting and wants to move on, then it cuts ahead a bit and he realizes he can't pay the bills so he has to go back and fight again just in the hopes of winning that prize money. There are several moments like that where you realize how real this story is, like both of the clans are related and there comes a scene where you see all the women of the clans sitting around saying "This is crazy, we're all related, we're all family, why can't we just get along?" and then you see the big monstrous guys and realize "oh there is no chance of that happening, sorry lady but this is your life forever." Or at the end of the film we see this new young fighter and you think back to the beginning of the movie how you saw a group of children cheering everyone on and it slowly dawns on you, "Oh man... this documentary has been going on for twelve years... those little kids are now beating the crap out of each other too, and they probably have no idea why they're doing it."
However, as I said way back at the start, I can't really recommend this as a full watch to anyone other than hardcore documentary fans. Granted you might also dig it if you enjoy UFC or MMA fights, but honestly I'm not into that stuff so I can't really say one way or the other on that. The reason I have a hard time recommending it is because there really is no point to all this fighting, and after a point in the film you realize "Wait... there's really no point to this movie either." As I said the guy filming this isn't an actual filmmaker, heck half the time he doesn't even want to be there, and because of that he doesn't know what to do with the movie after a point. Eventually it just becomes more shots of people beating each other up, and I won't lie, I started walking around my apartment, making a sandwich, going on my computer, and I just started only halfway paying attention in the background because once the initial shock of how insane this is wears off, there isn't a lot there to keep you watching. So often I see documentaries that are great and I want to learn more about the subject, but they only run about an hour at most so they just skim over lots of stuff. This film has pretty much the opposite problem, because I would have ended up liking it far more if they had just cut it down by about twenty minutes, maybe even a half hour. However, this movie is on Netlix Instant Que, meaning you can turn it on and watch it whenever you want, and because of that I still highly recommend checking it out and watching at least the first act, because as I said, it is just that crazy. So often we hear people say "truth is stranger than fiction," and we movie fans are usually inclined to say "no way is that true," but this is one of the few films out there that actually makes you realize, no sometimes truth is pretty freaking nuts.