The Boxer

1997, Movie, R, 120 mins


It doesn't pack the emotional punch of IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER or MY LEFT FOOT, but Irish director Jim Sheridan's third collaboration with actor Daniel Day-Lewis offers an intriguing portrait of a man trapped by his own past. After serving 14 years in prison for IRA-related activities, 32-year-old boxer Danny Flynn (Day-Lewis) returns to his battle-scarred home of Belfast and the girl he left behind (Emily Watson). Danny went away a hero, but he returns labeled a deserter on account of his staunch refusal in prison to further associate with his fellow IRA "POWs." He now wants nothing more than to pick up the pieces of his shattered career, salvaging whatever life he hasn't already sacrificed to the cause. But Danny becomes the unwitting catalyst for further internecine warfare when he reopens the Holy Family Boxing Club, a nonsectarian haven for Catholic and Protestant boys who would otherwise be tossing Molotov cocktails at one another. After so many films about the Irish Troubles, there remains so much to say: You can't help wishing that Sheridan managed to say a bit more here. He and cowriter Terry George are extremely careful not to sentimentalize or allegorize -- the ways in which individuals lose themselves when they become other people's symbols is one of their primary concerns. Unfortunately, the film never really catches fire, despite uniformly high-caliber performances; Day-Lewis, surely one the finest actors of his generation, is excellent. Past events remain deliberately obscure, and key relationships -- particularly the one between Danny and his would-be executioner, IRA firebrand Harry (Gerard McSorley) -- are left unexplored, depriving the film of the emotional complexity that has marked so much of Sheridan's previous work. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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