April 3, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Knuckle

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Knuckle, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because the subject of this low-budget documentary seemed fascinating to me -- it's an insider's look at the various "traveller" families of rural Ireland (Americans, think Walmart trailer trash), and how the unending clan feuds between them that have lasted for hundreds of years are still manifested to this day as a series of illegal bare-knuckle fistfights on forgotten countryside back roads.

The reality: Well, maybe this is just me, but I have to confess that I loved this merely from the schadenfreude aspect of it all; because I gotta say, there's nothing more effective to make you feel better about your own life than to watch two hours of these dumb, poor, backwards, racist, superstitious, alcoholic pieces of trash beat the holy living sh-t out of each other, so obsessively fixated on this illogical and outdated sense of "family honor" that they will simply never be able to pull themselves out of their dirt-labor existences, and especially guiltily satisfying when seeing that even they themselves admit that these centuries-old "clan disputes" are not much more than easy justifications for getting wasted and beating the f-ck out of each other, because they like getting wasted and beating the f-ck out of each other. And in this, filmmaker Ian Palmer has turned in a deeper and more profound meditation on the human condition than perhaps he was even aware of when making it; because by following these families for an entire twelve years, we get to literally watch an entire new generation of drunken fistfighting trailer trash actually get created, as we witness children who are at first neutral on the entire subject eventually become the latest beer-swilling twentysomething brawlers to carry on this shameful legacy a decade later, through an intense process of cult-like indoctrination and brainwashing that we literally watch happen in front of our eyes, a brainless and almost religious dedication to empty ideology that ends up trumping and snuffing out any attempts they could've instead made to try to better their lives even the tiniest bit. And so if you squint during this movie and pretend that the people you're seeing are from the Middle East, suddenly you realize how we get terrorists; while if you squint and imagine that they're Americans from the Deep South, suddenly you realize how we get Tea Partiers, in reality two sides of the same dark coin whose motivations are nakedly manifested in this riveting-like-a-trainwreck documentary. Granted, this is perhaps not the reaction the filmmakers were going for -- Palmer literally stumbled into this subject because of once getting hired to videotape a traveller wedding, and remained deeply ambivalent about the ethics of it all over the entire course of the twelve years he filmed these fights -- but any intelligent viewer will quickly understand just what a powerful look this film is of the base, animal-like parts of the human personality that cause most of the problems in this world, everything from abortion-clinic bombings to the "honor killings" of rape victims. It's queasy and infuriating, but it comes strongly recommended, if for nothing else than the lessons about humanity it can teach us.

Worth your time? Absolutely

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:48 PM, April 3, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |