Yet another potent (although critically underrated) drama from Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis, the Irish director and British star (respectively) of My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father. The story focuses on Danny... more » Flynn (Day-Lewis), a promising boxer who had been imprisoned at age 18 for associating with IRA terrorists. After serving a 14-year sentence, he returns to his Belfast neighborhood at a time when local IRA leader Joe Hamill (Brian Cox) is attempting to negotiate a peace treaty with the British. Despite having no further interest in IRA rivalries, Danny finds himself at the center of political and emotional turmoil when he is reunited with his former girlfriend Maggie (Emily Watson, of Breaking the Waves) who, in Danny's absence, married another IRA man who is now in prison. A strict, unwritten law forbids relationships with the wives of IRA prisoners, but as the former boxer channels his energy into reviving a neighborhood boxing gym, the attraction between Danny and Maggie proves irresistible. This gives a strategic advantage to a militant IRA rival who opposes the peace treaty, drawing Danny back into the bitter and potentially deadly struggle between warring IRA factions. Emphasizing the emotional complexities that arise between Danny and Maggie, this powerful, superbly acted drama demonstrates a sharp understanding of the deep-rooted fears and loyalties that fuel the "troubles" in Ireland, where peace seemed to finally (if tentatively) be achieved in the summer of 1998. --Jeff Shannon« less
"This is a great film and I've watched it several times. The photography is stunning. The musical score is brilliant. The characters are believable and endearing. The film does not take sides except to say "Enough!" Enough bloodshed. Enough hatred. Enough poverty. Northern Ireland has had enough. Daniel Day Lewis and Emily Watson give stellar performances. I saw Emily Watson in "Breaking the Waves" which I did not understand at all, but I did recognize a fine actress. I've seen all of Daniel Day Lewis' films--even his early releases. This is one of my favorite DDL films--a difficult choice as he has made so many excellent films. The supporting cast is composed of first class actors. The scenes are terribly realistic. I still jump when a bomb explodes early in the movie, and the boxing scenes are fabulous. (In the fifties I was a fan of Carmine Basilio, so I know what the real thing looks like.) The contrast of stark, war-torn Belfast with tenacious individuals attempting to lead relatively normal lives--marrying, having children, teaching day-school, mopping floors, is heart-rending. Who wouldn't root for peace? Those who have taken one side or the other in this awful conflict might not appreciate the neutrality of the film. That is the whole point. Most of the Irish are fed up and want to get on with their lives. I thought the coincidence of the film release with the current peace process effort was grand."
One Boxer's Rebellion
Gregor von Kallahann | 02/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's odd that a film about such a volatile subject (Northern Ireland's "Troubles") should be so understated in its way, but Jim Sheridan's "The Boxer" is just that--despite the occasional explosion and political assassination. The trailers that I saw in theaters a few years back almost suggested one of those "lovers-torn-apart-in-a-world-gone-mad" films that we've all come to know and find suspect. But the tone of the actual film is really quite muted.What makes "The Boxer" ring true is the very tentativeness of the relationship between Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson's characters. One time teenage lovers, they have been separated for 14 years while Danny Flynn (Day-Lewis) served a prison term for unspecified political activity. Released now, at the age of 32, he wants only to be left alone and to resume his boxing career. To Sheridan's credit, the irony that the BOXER has, in fact, become a man of peace is not dwelled upon. Nor is the tentative reunion with his lost love exactly the stuff of Sturm und Drang.There is an overall sense of Irish reserve in the film, a sense that brutal political realities have left all of its characters emotionally stunted. That may be "The Boxer's" greatest achievement, in fact, that the human cost of this political tragedy is not just measured in the body counts, but in the thousands of "small deaths" each individual experiences almost daily."
Moody, Deep and Rewarding
WILLIE A YOUNG II | Houston, TX. | 10/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love Daniel Day-Lewis. His wounded slow burn as Danny Flynn, a man recently released from prison after more than a decade, returning to his old neighborhood and trying to escape the ghosts of his past but confronted by the woman he (still) loves, who has married and had a child and a host of friends still separated by the politics of war is a quiet revelation. While his attempt to revive his career as a fighter fizzles and his life is under constant threat, Danny makes the most of his situation by standing up against the opression and laws that have cost so many of his friends their freedom and in some cases, their lives. Emily Watson is note perfect as his former love interest and she brings a quiet dignity to her role as a single mother torn between devotion to her imprisoned husband, protecting her pre-teen son, and her resurging feelings for Danny. While many won't like the tone and pacing of this film, I find it entrancing and marvel at Day-Lewis vulnerable, quiet power. Superb!"
Andy Williamson | Chicago, IL | 11/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE BOXER is a *powerful* film. It's hard not to get involved in the life of Danny Flynn, played by Daniel Day-Lewis and Maggie, played beautifully by the amazing Emily Watson. This is probably my favorite film to address the conflict in Northern Ireland. The film reeks of the tension and brooding atmosphere of that troubled area of the world. Flynn is a boxer who has just been released from prison after fourteen years. He returns to a home where nothing is what it once was; his girlfriend is married and has a son, his neighbors are suspicious of him, the neighborhood goons attempt to suck him back into his old life. All he wants to do is run a gym and box. The development of the story is heartbreaking as Maggie and Danny begin to rediscover old feelings for each other in the midst of the turmoil. Maggie's husband is in prison himself, and Danny must tread carefully to avoid upsetting anyone. Loyalties change and are questioned. When Danny bucks the system things begin to get interesting...A beautiful film with gorgeous color and a high quality DVD transfer in every respect. Everyone should see this film once.Highly recommended."
"I've lived with your face in silence."
Bart King | Portland, Oregon | 11/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After reading a couple of mixed reviews about THE BOXER, I delayed seeing it, and I probably would have skipped it entirely if it weren't for the sterling reputations of co-stars Emily Watson and Daniel Day Lewis. (The latter plays the role of Danny Flynn, a man imprisoned for 14 years for his role in an IRA bombing.)
More fool me. THE BOXER slowly impresses the viewer with its complex storyline, quiet demeanor and subtle dialogue. Watson and Lewis absolutely nail their roles as lovers who were separated at the age of 18, and now find themselves in the awkward roles of adults resuming a teenaged courtship. In a Hollywood film, the two would ultimately hop into bed with a rousing musical score; not so here.
While Watson and Lewis bring uncanny eloquence to their soft-spoken characters, perhaps most fascinating about THE BOXER is the culture of Ireland, specifically the political etiquette and sectarian hatred that each character has to dance around with.
SIDELIGHTS: This film is only nominally about boxing. Oh, and the Dublin flats that stand in for this movie's Belfast projects have since been razed, and upscale apartments now stand there."