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The Boxer

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson
Screenplay by Jim Sherida & Terry George
Directed by Jim Sheridan
Website www.theboxer.com

IN SHORT: There may be a great film in here if you can get through the accents.

Jim Sheridan's third Irish "troubles" themed flick is as well cast as either of his preceding movies, the most excellent In the Name of The Father and the shade less excellent Some Mother's Son. Both are available on video. Both are less murky than The Boxer, whose storyline is much more clearly described by the TV commercial.

That story, of the release of an IRA prisoner after 14 years in the slammer is fairly simple. The man, Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants nothing more to do with politics. He misses Maggie (Emily Watson), the woman he let get away who has married another man. He wants to make good as a boxer, the career he was headed before the "troubles" got him in deep.

So far so good. Running behind everything else is (what I'm guessing was) an IRA political tool of marrying Irish women to prisoners. While the political activists/terrorists (your pick) do their time, their wives are paraded as victims of the Brit persecution. The are guarded like nuns in a cloister and are more prisoner than their hubbies.

Still OK. Danny wants Maggie. Maggie is married to a prisoner. Remember now, we have only seen (an) in-prison wedding yet Maggie has a teen age son who would be just about the right age to be . . .

That would be a great story, but it isn't the story. (It does have a great deal to do with how "The Boxer" turns out, so I'll leave it be). The problem with The Boxer, at least to these American ears is that the accents are so thick that, by the time you've got them figured out, you really don't care much about the trials and travails of the characters onscreen. Or you've let Cranky mislead you the way his feeble imagination misled him.

Granted, this story is a helluva lot harder to tell than the black and white In the Name of the Father. The political strife within the IRA as its leaders try to negotiate a peace, while the firebrands at lower levels want to continue blowing up the British occupiers, has as much an effect on the Danny loves Maggie story as anything else. For the boxing club which Danny represents is non-sectarian. Both Catholics and Protestants are welcome and Danny's return is a lit match in the middle of dry kindling. Literally.

You can yell at me for being American, but Cranky can only report what he knows. It took close to half the running time of The Boxer for Cranky to get comfortable with the Irish lilt, though everyone else I talked to had less problem with the various subplots and machinations running through the main story. Then again, the audience was three quarters Irish.

And no one walked out happy or talking about the film. The audience got up, put on their coats and walked out in silence. Cranky's seen it before and it isn't a good sign. There may be a good movie in here somewhere, but Cranky's crowd didn't react as such.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Boxer, he would have paid . . .

$3.00

Higher if you've got the ears, or if the clues I've dropped make it easier for you to get through the stew. Else, rent and replay as needed.


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