March 9, 1998 -- It is hard to imagine a more unrelentingly grim film than "The Boxer." By comparison, "Braveheart" was a comedy.
The story deals primarily with people in and around the Irish Republican Army and their different points of view on the situation in Northern Ireland. The points of view vary from getting rid of all the Protestants, to compromising with the Protestants, to trying to co-exist with the Protestants.
Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Danny Flynn, the boxer. Lewis has spent 14 years in prison for his role in the IRA reign of terror, and he has had enough of it. Flynn joins Harry (Gerard McSorley of "Braveheart") in starting up a boxing club as a way to bring the community back together.
Flynn and Harry are opposed by Ike Weir (played by Ken Stott of "Shallow Grave"), a man so filled with hate there can be no compromise with the Protestants or the British government. He wants to get rid of all of them. The local IRA leader, Joe Hamill (Brian Cox of "Rob Roy" and "Braveheart"), hopes to strike a deal with the British to make peace and free the remaining IRA prisoners. His daughter, Maggie (Emily Watson of "Breaking the Waves") is married to an IRA prisoner, but is in love with Flynn.
Complicated story, isn't it? Believe me that you will get a lot more out of this movie if map out a scorecard of the characters first, because the movie doesn't explain the situation as well as I just did. Background on the political situation in Northern Ireland? Forget it, the movie doesn't explain what's going on. Why was Flynn in jail for 14 years? The film doesn't explain that, either.
What happens is you are thrown into the middle of the story and you are forced to puzzle together the beginning and end for yourself. Those who don't have the ear to interpret those thick Irish accents will be even more puzzled.
One part of the film that does work is the love story between Flynn and Maggie. It helps to have such great acting talents as Day-Lewis and Watson. Stott and McSorley are also excellent, but they can't quite save this gloomy, dark film from sinking into the depths of its own despair.
The Irish are great talkers. They have both wit and charm, but this film lacked that quality. The characters were sullen and taciturn. When they did speak, they didn't reveal anything useful. The makers of this film should have kissed the blarney stone. It might have helped. This film rates a C-.
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