dir. Ian Palmer
A few itinerant Irish families have been feuding each other since before the history of ever. Because people. And they’ve been “settling” their beefs with occasional bare-knuckle boxing matches...which have further fueled the flames of hatred among the younger members of the families, who, in turn, have challenged each other as soon as they have become old enough to beat each other to nothing. Repeat. Forever. Because people.
Director Ian Palmer, having accidentally discovered this world of feuding families, realized the potential important documentary at his fingertips, and so filmed a bunch of fights for damn near two decades; stopping after becoming disgusted with humanity and himself (I’m speculating here), when he witnessed two grandpas beating hell out of each other. So he called it quits; he swore never to film another fight. But then he did film one more fight.
Watching Knuckle, I couldn't help but be reminded of Muzafer Sherif's Robbers Cave Study. For those unfamiliar (which, what lame-o doesn’t know about Muzafer Sherif and his studies), a group of identical white, middleclass suburban boys were sent to an experimentation camp where they were randomly separated into two groups, isolated from each other, and made to fight (figuratively) for prizes. (Because disappearing your children into the welcoming arms of shady scientists for use as guinea pigs was something parents did back in the day, apparently.) Although the children in each group were identical, they began to develop racist attitudes toward the children of the opposing group: each side attributed negative character aspects to the people of the other group.
Only when the groups were forced to work together toward a common goal did their prejudices drop. Now that they interacted with each other, and helped each other, they could see that their previous prejudices were all wrong. People had to become familiar with others, before they realized, “hey, we’re all pretty much the same.”
Yeah, the whole no longer competing over the same resources played a pretty big part as well. It was the main take-away from the study, after all. Still, I’m gonna stick with my getting-to-know-each-other assessment, because—as I’ve said numerous times before—I’m smarter than scientists.
The opposing families in Knuckle, as you may have guessed, are seldom in contact with each other...except when fists meet faces. And so, never are they able to get to know each other, to talk things out; instead, their resentments continue to build, as isolation breeds contempt. The bloody battles only make the hatred stronger, promising a never-ending cycle of violence. It’s no wonder this shit will never end. If these two identical families can't see how much they have in common, how can...
You wanna get depressed about humanity? Just step right up and grab a front-row seat for Knuckle.
dir. Michael Dowse
Damn, I needed a pick-me up after that Knuckle shit. What else did Netflix have? Sweet, the violent hockey movie Goon. That would make me feel better. And it did.
Coming on the heels of Knuckle, one thing that instantly struck me about Goon—which is also a truism, by the way, of any violent movie released within the past lots of years—was the absurdly unrealistic fight sounds. I guess I'm just kinda sheltered, and so don't have to witness fistfights firsthand on a daily basis, but I had no idea how wrong movies had been getting this shit.
Watch this funny clip from Goon:
Now watch this fight clip from Knuckle and tell me what you notice about it (Obvious warning: Really violent footage):
You hear those punching sounds?
What punching sounds?
I have become so accustomed to the booming, bone-crunching sound effects from most violent movies, that I was kind of shocked that the actual sound of punching is more like a soft, muffled thud. I guess that's one of the reasons I could find a movie like Goon so fun, so entertaining: the fights are so over-the-top as to be unrealistic. The extremeness of the violence ends up acting as a distancing effect. Like a Three Stooges short, this exists nowhere near the realm of reality.
Of course, it is also the case that Goon is just a super-entertaining film. I initially became interested in it when I heard so many comparisons to Slap Shot—my favorite sports movie of all time. And the comparisons are understandable, if not completely apt. What Slap Shot offered was a glimpse into the workaday world of low-level minor league hockey players stuck in a depressed rust belt city. Yes, it's gleefully violent and profane, but it also presents real, fully formed characters who struggle to eke out a living. Slap Shot also functions as a (fictionalized) documentation of a people's struggle to deal with impending obsolescence in a changing economy.
What Goon offers is a loving tribute to profane, downer seventies sports films, of which Slap Shot represents the pinnacle. As Alan Moore once said, in regard to the slew of imitations released in the wake of his successful Watchmen, "I've seen a lot of things over the past 15 years that have been a bizarre echo of somebody else's bad mood. It's not even their bad mood, it's mine."
But that's not to say I didn't like Goon. Far from it. As homages go, it's hard to beat Goon. Yes, as opposed to Slap Shot, the folks in this film are more caricature than character; yes, the tone is more hyper-real than real; yes, the comedy is slightly more broad than intimately character-based; no, Goon is not the equal of Slap Shot. But what it is is funny as fuck.
Dave's Rating (for both movies):