The Boxer

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Jim Sheridan

REVIEWED: 01-20-98

In The Boxer, director Jim Sheridan and actor Daniel Day-Lewis team up once again, as they did for In the Name of the Father, for a film about war-torn Ireland.

Day-Lewis plays Danny Flynn, a former IRA soldier who is released from prison after 14 years. He returns to his old neighborhood in Ulster to a mix of emotions. His IRA comrades respect that he never turned on them while away, but they’re suspicious of his refusal to have anything to do with his old life. In addition, there’s Maggie (Emily Watson), Danny’s girlfriend at the time of his incarceration, who has since done her duty by her IRA-leader father and married another prisoner.

The moment Danny arrives, he begins training as a boxer at the old gym where he once showed promise as a fighter. His actions spark both hope and disgust in the town as he and his coach recreate their boxing club and sponsor nonsectarian fights. While these bouts prove to be an outlet for some, including Maggie’s young son, there are those who can’t stand the mingling of the two sides, and soon violence erupts.

The Boxer is a tense film that presents Ireland’s troubles and shows that there are no easy solutions, that emotions run too deep to be taken care of by a simple boxing match. Written by Sheridan and Terry George, the film lays out a complicated tangle, where the people of Ulster are given an outlet away from the political fray through more violence in the ring.

Though The Boxer successfully draws an intriguingly sad picture of the struggle, it is missing something in regards to its two main characters. Danny is the strong, silent type, so silent, in fact, that several minutes lapse before he speaks a full sentence. Danny reveals himself at an almost aggravatingly slow pace. When it’s all said and done, there is still more to him that has to be understood. He tells Maggie that he’s loved her all those years away and she tells him the same, but the audience yearns to know more about their past together, about what draws them together. And it’s this that takes the sting out of The Boxer’s punch.

--Susan Ellis

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