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Danny Flynn (Day-Lewis) and Maggie Hamill (Watson) have been drawn to each other since they were teenagers growing up in Belfast, but because of where they were born, their lives have been shaped by random danger. They are bound by ancient, unquestioning loyalty to the ties of blood, tribe and tradition. Now, after 14 years in prison, former IRA member Danny is returning to the neighbourhood where Maggie has managed to survive by marrying, and raising a son by Danny’s best friend. Ill at ease in the outside world, Danny is imploding with 14 years of silence. Cultural taboos and unwritten rules militate against Maggie and Danny. Friends, family and IRA members watch their every move, observing their forbidden glances. By returning to the neighbourhood, Danny becomes the catalyst for change in both Maggie’s life and the life of his community. As a boxer determined to restore himself in the ring, he is capable of resurrecting his people’s self-respect. As a man, he can renew his own self-respect and perhaps build a life with Maggie. But in the boxing ring, Danny is home. There, the rules provide a structure that the chaotic streets of Belfast cannot, and thus offer him a way to communicate with dignity and, in the process, rebuild his life. They begin to steal brief moments together, exchanging a look, a word, a touch. In a world where violence is a way of life, the most dangerous thing they can do is fall in love.

"With the visceral power of Belfast’s ‘Troubles’ driving it, The Boxer is a grimly realistic account of a man's redemption through love and self respect. If this sounds familiar, you’ve been to the movies a lot. But we are told there are only seven stories in the world, so how you tell your version of one of these becomes critical. I think Jim Sheridan is a highly talented director and his cast and crew are equally talented, telling their version with great passion and force. (Except I worried about the ongoing poor continuity regarding a scar on Day-Lewis’ left cheek.) The two stars, Day-Lewis and Watson, are outstanding, and add great humanity to this rather depressing story – but at least it ends with hope. However, I have to admit that it is perhaps the last film I’d like to see set in these ‘Troubles’; they trouble me deeply. If only these films, with their clear editorial message of humanity waging peace against the hate, would, could and did have a positive impact on those in Belfast consumed by hate."
Andrew L. Urban

"Jim Sheridan’s skillful direction brings pace and heart to this powerful drama, one that makes us care deeply for its two enigmatic characters embroiled in the violent and bitter Irish/British conflict. While I agree with Andrew’s reservations (above) on the canvas of terrorism on which the film is painted, Sheridan has brought abundant passion and commitment to the story, with an economical script and sterling performances. Daniel Day-Lewis erupts on screen with a forceful presence, passion and humanity as a non-violent character committed to a violent sport. Emily Watson is electric: her penetrating eyes, a face that mirrors the soul and a cheeky smile that would thaw an igloo. Their scenes together capture every nuance, beautifully: each silence a moment of anticipation. Their relationship retains an innocence that began 14 years previously, while their passion is mature. The moody music score contains melodies with themes that sing, while the use of etherial, uncertain questioning phrases in scenes of violence accent the futility of it all. The very essence of living in constant fear is poignantly portrayed, while the boxing ring becomes the political battlefield. A dynamic tour de force, The Boxer is a essentially a love story, which moves, haunts and above all, entertains."
Louise Keller

"What a difference several years makes in terms of the politics that can be explored on film. Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father was set in the thick of the British battle with the IRA, with Daniel Day-Lewis cast as a man wrongly imprisoned for terrorism. Now, in another collaboration, Day-Lewis and Sheridan have re-teamed for The Boxer, but this time, ‘The Troubles’ are nearing an end, Day-Lewis is now an ex-IRA gunman released from prison trying to put a savage past behind him. Again, co-writer and director Sheridan gives us evidence of his mastery of narrative, dramatic cinema, and his film has as much power and resonance as its predecessor. The Boxer is a film not so much about boxing, but about a man’s salvation and his desperation to rebuild a life. Yet the boxing sequences are handled with cinematic force, expertly choreographed and shot. Again, Day-Lewis demonstrates his remarkable depth and intensity as an actor, giving another skilful and meticulously crafted performance. His eyes radiate an inner pain that few actors of his generation are capable of delivering. But he’s not alone. The astonishing Emily Watson, so hypnotic in Breaking the Waves, presents us with a complex and remarkable performance, as the determined young woman who rediscovers a long-lost passion. There are also superb performances by the rest of the film’s stellar Irish cast. Enhanced by the striking cinematography of Chris Menges, and the sharp editing of Gerry Hambling, the film is a remarkable and energetic drama, yet it does not become a preachy political doctrine. Sheridan’s fluid directing style holds him in great stead. "
Paul Fischer

"Set during the so-called IRA peace-keeping operatives, a cease-fire to free POW’s, The Boxer steals dramatic moments from political documentaries and mishmashes them with a hybrid of pop-corny post-war melodrama. The subject demands more than a round in the ring as an easy, cinematic metaphor. ‘Stand by your man,’ might be the movie’s theme song. The director’s glazed admiration for the flyweight champion has sentimentalized a character that could’ve been worthy of Day-Lewis’ genius—not ye olde strong-silent loner under the perpetual cloud of brood. Watson, too, is worthy of playing a woman with more than m-e-n on her mind. She has wooed and won Hollywood. This means she may now play a distressed damsel who (what else?) moons over her romantic past. Sheridan concentrates on the gritty look of the city instead of the conflict churning inside those who choose to remain there. This is their home—and his too—until he waved his cinematic wand and turned East Belfast into Brigadoon. The final sky-scraping shot looms with an unidentified church spire stabbing the town like the javelin of a jousting knight. Only Sheridan can’t remember what all the fighting’s for."
Crissa-Jean Chappell, Miami Beach Sun Post

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Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2


See Paul Fischer's interview with director JIM SHERIDAN




CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Ken Stott, Gerard McSorley, Brian Cox, Eleanor Methven, Ciaran Fitzgerald, Kenneth Cranham

DIRECTOR: Jim Sheridan

PRODUCER: Jim Sheridan, Arthur Lappin

SCRIPT: Jim Sheridan, Terry George


EDITOR: Gerry Hambling

MUSIC: Gavin Friday, Maurice Seezer


RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes





AWARDS: Nominated 1998 for three Golden Globe Awards, for Best Director, Best Actor and Best Film.

VIDEO RELEASE: October 13, 1999


RRP: $19.95

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