The weakest of the three collaborations between director Jim Sheridan and star Daniel Day-Lewis (following My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father), The Boxer nonetheless packs a pretty powerful Irish punch with its pulpy story of Danny Flynn, a professional pugilist and former IRA volunteer who’s trying to go straight after being released from prison after serving a 14-year sentence. He returns to the ring upon gaining his freedom and rekindles his romance with his former sweetie, Maggie (Emily Watson), who’s now married to an imprisoned IRA operative (and is bound to be faithful to him, according to IRA code) — though he also finds himself lured back into the organization he thought he’d be able to escape, just as Maggie’s father (Brian Cox), the IRA district chief, is striving for peace with the British. A simple yarn, but a pretty good one, with Day-Lewis delivering another passionate performance and meeting his match in Watson, who was just coming off her astonishing turn in Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Sheridan has stumbled a bit in recent years with the almost absurdly melodramatic war-at-home drama, Brothers, and the rather awful thriller, Dream House; maybe he needs to spend some time on a stool in an Irish pub and get back to his roots?
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