The Boxer

Reviewed by Van T. Tran

Collector's Edition DVD

Universal, widescreen 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English (DD 5.0), French (2.0), subtitles: English, French, dual-layer, scene selections-33 chapters, rated R, 110 min., $34.98, street date 7/7/98.


  • "Fighting for Peace: Inside The Boxer" featurette
  • Seperate tracks audio commentary by Jim Sheridan & producer Arthur Lappin
  • Deleted scenes
  • Alternate ending
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Cast & crew biography

Studio Line

Directed by Jim Sheridan. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Ken Stot, Gerard McSorley, Brian Cox, Ciarán Fitzgerald.

Danny Flynn and Maggie Hamill have been drawn to each other since they were teenagers growing up in Belfast, but because of where they were born, their lives have been shaped by random danger. They have seen bullets shatter bedroom windows and bombs rip apart local pubs, and they are bound by ancient, unquestioning loyalty to the ties of blood, tribe and tradition. To violate such a code would be to willfully sacrifice what looks like their people’s only hope.

Now, after 14 years in prison, former IRA member Danny is returning to the neighborhood where Maggie has managed to survive by marrying, and then raising a son by Danny’s best friend. Ill at ease in the outside world, Danny is imploding with 14 years of silence. Cultural taboos and unwritten rules militate against Maggie and Danny. Friends, family and IRA members watch their every move, observing their forbidden glances.

By returning to the neighborhood, Danny becomes the catalyst for change in both Maggie’s life and the life of his community. As a boxer determined to restore himself in the ring, he is capable of resurrecting his people’s self-respect. As a man, he can renew his own self-respect and perhaps build a life with Maggie, one that is not only worth fighting for, but worth living for.

But in the boxing ring, Danny is home. There, the rules provide a structure that the chaotic streets of Belfast cannot, and therefore offer him a way to communicate with dignity and, in the process, rebuild his life.

In the midst of turmoil, as Maggie realizes she has never stopped caring for Danny, they begin to steal brief moments together, exchanging a look, a word, a touch. In a world where violence is a way of life, the most dangerous thing they can do is fall in love.

Picture/Sound/Extras (B+/B-/B+)

A determine factor for me to get on board of the DVD format is the availability of movie rental. Fortunately enough for me, the place that I frequent was one of the first few stores that offers DVD rental since the format's inception. In the last year and a half, they've amassed a considerable number of titles, but nowhere as near as their laserdisc collection. In my first month of the new format, I've purchased six titles and rented ten more, and I must say that the rental experience for me has been alarmingly bad. Of the ten that I rented, three have defects that made them nearly unwatchable. The latest is The Boxer which is the worst of them all. About two third into the movie, the picture suddenly started to break up and lock up the player. I can bypass the lock up by using the fast forward feature, then the movie would play, but the pixelations continue for the next five frustrating minutes. It isn't just the pixelation either, some of the frames and dialogue would actually skip. Pixelation was also a major problem in The Man in the Iron Mask, and in Face/Off, a whole chapter was bypassed during the layer switch. Interestingly enough, I encounter no problem whatsoever of the six titles that I purchased. All of which bring into the question about the durability of DVD and at this point, I don't even think that the format is suitable for rental. The percentage of rental defects thus far is disturbing.

There are some concerns that due to the DVD's high storage density, especially on a duel-layer disc, a minor scratch could result in a large amount of loss data. Looking at the recorded side of The Boxer, I noticed the many residues of fingerprints, some fine particles, but surprisingly no scratch. Using a disc polish for laserdisc and CD, I wiped off the dirts, thinking that perhaps it's the residue that was the culprit. I replay the disc and behold, the problem disappeared. So, it was the oily residues, but it still doesn't answer how much a minor scratch could effect the disc. From now on at least, I'll polish the rental disc before watching it. However, I wonder if a typical consumer would take the time to clean the rental disc before watching. The answer would probably be no nor should we be expected to. It will be up to the store to do a better job if the DVD rental is to gain mass appeal and not frustration.

As for the transfer, the picture is matted at the ratio of 1.66:1 for the widescreen and 16x9 enhanced version. The picture was filmed in spherical and shown at 1.85:1, however, the DVD framing is excellent as I did not encounter any striking crop. Images are sharp in the usual DVD standard, but there are some dirts on the print, some slight shimmering on the brighter objects, and few noise on background scenes. Colors are warm and well saturated with cool blue lighting as the predominant color. The picture is shot in a perpetual state of dreariness as there aren't many bright settings. Black and shadow detail are well defined.

The encoded soundtrack is limited in the surrounds, but has a wide frontal stage. Some decent panning effects provide by the constant sound of helicopter whizzing overhead. Bass extension is forceful on the few explosions, but is otherwise restrained. The well recorded score generates most of the dynamic responses. Dialogue is well integrated.

The supplemental materials are quite a package. For starter, you get two commentary tracks by the director and producer, but I've to say that it's kind of overkill for this movie. I would rather have a single track with them together. There is a 22-minute featurette that takes you behind-the-scenes with interviews from the leading actors, director, and trainer Barry McGuigan. The most interesting bit is the part on training Daniel Day-Lewis to be a boxer. His sheer determination and relentless workout amazed the trainer. McGuigan declares that Day-Lewis is good enough to fight the top ten fighters in Ireland. I'll pay to see that. Then there are about 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes, some of which revealed more insight to the story, such as the scene showing Maggie visiting her husband Tommy in jail, he is often refered to but not shown in the final cut. There is also an alternate ending, which I will explain on the bottom of the page. Both the production notes and biography are well in-depth.

Director Jim Sheridan (Some Mother's Son, In the Name of the Father) obviously has a tremendous insight and account to the political conflict and struggle in Ireland as all his previous films demonstrated; The Boxer is no exception. Amidst the chaotic backdrop is an earnest love story and the lives of those that are needlessly victimized by the insane political conflict. The film made more compelling by the oustanding performances with sparkling chemistry between the two leading actors. It's wonderful to see Emily Watson in another role since her break through performance in Breaking the Waves. I hope to see her more in the future.

Related Sites DVD Empire

Current as of 10/30/98

  • James Berardinelli's ReelViews--"The Boxer is strong enough to overcome its occasional missteps and leave a lasting impression."
  • Seattle Times--"A generic amalgam of the typical boxing movie and the typical IRA movie, with quality performances in underwritten roles."
  • danielday--"The only place on the web devoted to Daniel Day-Lewis. We're trying to be your one stop for everything DDL."

    LinkExchange Network
    The alternate happy ending shows Danny, Maggie, and Liam on a boat leaving Belfast. It is a better conclusion than the film ending which I find vague and unsatisfy.
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