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`Boxer’ may not be a KO, but it’s a clear-cut winner

SHARE `Boxer’ may not be a KO, but it’s a clear-cut winner

Contrary to what might seem to be the case, there is no shortage of ideas for movies. It's just that most of the studios look for them in the wrong places.

For instance, writer/director Jim Sheridan keeps finding story gems by exploring real events in his home country of Ireland. Together with his writing partner Terry George, Sheridan has produced "My Left Foot" and "In the Name of the Father."Their newest collaboration, "The Boxer," may be fictional, and it isn't quite as good as those two films, but it is intelligent and well-acted and is certainly better than the majority of what's been coming to the big screen as of late.

Sheridan has also reteamed with actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who stars as Danny Flynn, a once-promising prizefighter serving prison time for his activities as a militant member of the Irish Republican Army.

Upon his release, Danny starts rebuilding his life and his boxing career. Together with his former trainer, Ike Weir (Ken Stott), Danny refurbishes an old gym with hopes of starting a non-denominational boxing club.

He also visits his childhood sweetheart, Maggie (Emily Watson), now married to his former best friend - who's serving a prison sentence because of his own IRA affiliations.

But Danny's political and personal agendas make enemies of both Harry (Gerald McSorley), Danny's former IRA compatriot, and Maggie's teenage son Liam (Ciaran Fitzgerald).

As the boy resents Danny's frequent visits (and his mother for encouraging him), he sets fire to the gym. But Harry and his militant cronies aren't even that subtle - they make thinly veiled threats on his life.

Sheridan does a good job of capturing the Irish locations in a grimy, unflattering way that is quite effective when combined with the somewhat downbeat material. However, the pacing is so leisurely that the whole thing would topple if not for most of the cast.

Day-Lewis is quite convincing and nicely understated as a fighter. Stott nearly steals things, making Ike extremely sympathetic.

But Watson is restrained to the point of being bland, and McSorley is a pretty one-dimensional villain. It is interesting to note that Sheridan actually portrays the majority Irish government in a more sympathetic light than usual, though.

"The Boxer" is rated R for violent fisticuffs and gunfights, profanity and some brief gore.