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Parents' Guide to

The Boxer

By Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Irish drama has violence, swearing, sectarianism.

Movie R 1997 113 minutes
The Boxer Poster Image

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This <ahem> hard-hitting drama was released in 1997, a year before the historic Good Friday Agreement helped significantly advance the Northern Irish peace process. Thankfully, as a result of that treaty, The Boxer paints a bleaker picture than what would later transpire in real life. Led by a typically committed performance from Day-Lewis, the method actor reportedly trained as a boxer for more than two years as part of his preparation, to the point where the former pros who helped him claimed he could've competed at the top level if he had wanted. This matches the equally uncompromising approach that the movie takes to portraying a community drama against the backdrop of "The Troubles" in 1990s Northern Ireland.

Day-Lewis' portrayal of Danny is one of mostly quiet intensity, with the boxing bouts that he competes in meticulously shot and acted as Danny tries to begin the long road to redemption. Undoing this good work slightly is a script that never quite gives its hugely talented supporting cast much to do. Emily Watson is a capable love interest, but like Ken Stott's turn as Danny's trainer, Ike, and Brian Cox as an aging high-ranking IRA member, her performance isn't able to do much more than elevate what on paper are characters we've seen before, regardless of the setting. These are relatively minor complaints, though. Despite the limitations of its script, this story about violent men and the cycles of death and destruction that repeat themselves has dialogue that feels grounded in the real world. And it always carries a convincing air of dread and menace, with its punishing boxing bouts serving the story as more than a punch-drunk metaphor.

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