It has taken me a long, long time to warm up to Daniel Day-Lewis. Despite first meeting him in the tender and gentler characters he played in A Room With a View and The Age of Innocence, he was always that terrifying Method guy who sharpened knives on set and ate his own kills. I don't want to say I was scared of him, but I found him brilliantly off-putting, which is why I never saw The Boxer until this past weekend.

Directed by Jim Sheridan, The Boxer delves into the last gasp of the Troubles in Ireland. Former IRA member Danny Flynn (Day-Lewis) is released from prison on the verge of the 1998 peace treaty. He simply wants to get back to his life, resume a boxing career, and live in peace. But his former IRA allies are busy plotting last ditch efforts of violence, and they're furious at his neutrality. To make matters worse, he meets up with Maggie (Emily Watson), the girl he left behind, and who is now married to his imprisoned best friend. As a prisoner's wife, Maggie is held to a high standard, and their fragile relationship endangers them both.

This is a tragic, tense, romantic, and underrated movie that has really fallen through the cracks in lieu of Day-Lewis' flashier performances in The Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood. Naturally, this film had Day-Lewis dropping everything to become a boxing expert, but it's his performance out of the ring that's really stunning. Danny is a kind and uncertain man, just trying to do the right thing in a situation that's politically and personally fraught with danger. Also, he's sexy as hell in it. You can't say that about Daniel Plainview, can you?

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