Ian Palmer‘s Knuckle is a thoughtful, well-assembled, vaguely sickening doc about four (or is it five?) working-class Irish clans expressing their loathing for each other by staging bare-knuckle mano e mano fist fights over a period of 12 years, or roughly ’97 to ’09. It’s sad and repellent, and yet you’re gripped with anticipation every time a new fight is about to begin. What is that?

There’s no real reason for these medieval-style bouts other than the clansmen being unable or unwilling to transcend this handed-down tradition, which goes back a couple of decades. Or their bestial instincts or economic frustration…whatever. The point is that these beefy, tattooed, very Irish-looking guys are stuck in this grudge-bout cycle like an ox stranded in a mud sinkhole.

Fight Club was a very cool, understandable art film — it was about renouncing passive, corporate-controlled attitudes and lifestyles. Knuckle is just anthropology. There’s nothing to do after seeing it except shake your head and go “I get it, okay, that’s their ritual….but on the other hand, too effin’ bad.”