Director Jim Sheridan links up once more with Daniel Day-Lewis for 1997's The Boxer
, a study of a violent Belfast's uneasy crossover into the peace process (they had previously worked on My Left Foot
among other films). Day-Lewis stars as Danny Flynn, imprisoned in his late teens for terrorism, now out after 14 years. A once promising boxer, he's initially looking to resume what's left of his career. However, his rekindled love for Maggie (Emily Watson), daughter of local IRA boss (Brian Cox), is coupled with a need to be a part of the healing process in Northern Ireland. With the help of his former trainer (Ken Stott), he reopens a non-sectarian gym. However, the non-pacific wing of the IRA, personified by Gerard McSorley, resents Flynn, not least for consorting with Maggie, who is another IRA prisoner's wife. Day-Lewis plays Flynn as an almost spiritual figure, still caught in the introspection that enshrouded him during his years in jail. Ironically, the well-executed boxing scenes provide a respite from the air of serious violence that pervades the rest of the film, symbolised by the ominous rotorblades of the ever-present helicopters, from which much of the action of this sad, yet gripping and ultimately uplifting movie, is shot.
On the DVD: Generous extras include commentaries from producer Arthur Lappin, who offers a tourist's guide to various locations, as well as one from director Jim Sheridan, who offers technical info and remarks drily of a brief, tart exchange between Maggie and Flynn, "This is an Irish love scene". There's also an alternative (though not that alternative) ending, extra scenes which probably deserved to stay on the cutting room floor and, most illuminatingly, a featurette on the movie. This reveals that the career of Barry McGuigan (boxing advisor here) provided Sheridan with the impetus to make The Boxer, inspired by the courage and grace he showed in the ring to rise above partisanship. --David Stubbs
Ex-IRA member and former boxing champion Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) comes out of prison after fourteen years and returns to his native Belfast. He falls in with his old coach, Ike (Ken Stott), and the pair open a gym together. Danny meets his old flame, Maggie (Emily Watson), and hopes to rekindle their affair until he discovers that while he was inside she married his best friend, also an IRA member and now serving time himself. As Danny and Ike's gym attracts young talent and Danny successfully resurrects his boxing career, pressure from IRA thug Harry, an opponent of the burgeoning peace process, threatens to destroy everything they are working towards.