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In Brief: "The Boxer"

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Just as the Irish Troubles seem to have gone on forever, movies about the Irish Troubles have also gone on a bit, and so I may, perhaps, escape censure if I merely salute The Boxer in passing as yet another forceful, honestly made drama about Belfast, fanaticism, explosions, and the blue-gray light of desperate hope. Like In the Name of the Father, this picture was written by Terry George and directed and co-written by Jim Sheridan, and it's about an IRA man, Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis), who comes out of prison after fourteen years and no longer feels hatred for anyone. Danny wants to get back into the ring, where he was once a promising Irish fighter. He likes the discipline of training, and after so many years of numbing self-suppression, he actually needs to feel the pain of being hit. Day-Lewis brings to the role his usual rapt physical and mental absorption in what he is doing. Silent and wary much of the time, with hawklike eyes and a closed-off face, he bursts out, now and then, in tirades of memorable bitterness. The movie's acts of violence and betrayal may be familiar, but the filmmakers' obvious contempt for people given over to fanaticism is enormously welcome -- a call for the most elementary kind of sanity. Even in the smallest roles, the acting is exceptionally strong. As long as such English and Irish powerhouses as Emily Watson, Brian Cox, Gerald McSorley, and Ken Stott are ready to make these movies, they will continue to be made.


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