The idea behind The Boxer is very intriguing. A young, ex-IRA member attempts to find peace via the means of fighting in the ring, whilst his political past and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants world still surround him and attempt to hinder his ambitions.
Boxing is supposed to be the bridge between Catholics and Protestants — a discipline that channels people’s anger. Whether pro-republican or siding with the British, it’s become irrelevant for Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his old trainer, Ike Weir (Ken Stott), who have decided to open a non-sectarian training centre where Catholics and Protestants can train together.
The Boxer feels very much a real-life struggle that many (particularly those who’ve grown up in the U.K. and Ireland) can relate to, rather than the typical underdog story that sees the protagonist going the distance. When Danny says, “I’m not a killer [but] this place makes me want to kill,” we can understand the negativity that his surroundings are having upon him, and sympathise with his efforts to make a positive difference.
The tensions are very interesting (I really found myself anticipating the point where all the conflict boiled over); while Danny’s developing relationship with Maggie (Emily Watson) anchors The Boxer nicely. A subtle, impassioned performance from Day-Lewis also contributes to the seriously of the movie.
The fight’s aren’t all that, though, and make for the least interesting scenes in the movie. Particularly, a match-up between Danny and a British fighter, in London, was definitely on the subdued side, and nowhere near as exciting as it should have been.