The Boxer (15) 112 mins ****
Although films set in or against ’The Troubles' in Northern Ireland automatically arouse controversy, the majority - with the exception of Hollywood's misguided output - distance themselves from the current political climate. In The Name Of The Father, Nothing Personal and Some Mother’s Son all centre on events from the recent past. The Boxer, however, brings the current drive towards a peaceful settlement right up to date.
Although writer-director Jim Sheridan admits that his previous film, In The Name Of The Father, was fuelled by 'rage’, The Boxer finds him offering a more optimistic — but not simplistic — view from this end of decades of sectarian unrest.
Regular Sheridan collaborator Daniel Day-Lewis plays Danny Flynn, recently released after fourteen years in prison. A former IRA member, Danny faces resistance when he tries to rebuild his life in his home community: hardline Republicans admire his past deeds, but are angry with the way he cold- shouldered other IRA prisoners while inside.
With the help of wine-soaked trainer Ike (Ken Stott), Danny opens a new gym to give the local lads a means of channelling their anger away from ’The Troubles'. He also
Fight for your right: Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson in The Boxer
wants to rekindle his relationship with childhood sweetheart Maggie (Emily Watson), but this is complicated by the fact that she is the daughter of an IRA kingpin and wife of a jailed IRA man.
What the film's boxing scenes lack in Raging Bull-style grace, they more than make up for in hard, realistic aggression - the audience recoils from blow after blow from Danny’s fists. Day-Lewis, a master at internalisation, is totally believable as a slow-burning, tight-lipped man who has spent fourteen years holding conversations in silence within the confines of his head
and a prison cell.
The Boxer’s political perspective is also commendable. At last we can understand the demands that peace makes on a divided Republican community, some of whom cannot simply wipe away the blood of their children and live side by side with those responsible for their deaths. The internal strains within the tribe are clearly seen, but the impetus on the streets is towards reconciliation, albeit one as potentially volatile as Danny and Maggie's loving embrace. (Alan Morrison)
I General release from Fri 20 Feb.
Small Time (18) 60 mins ~k it it Hr
Small Time? About time, more like. Shane Meadows's hilariously cheeky first feature debuted at the 1996 Edinburgh International Film Festival, where it was a resounding success with audiences and critics alike. This gave Meadows the opportunity to work with Bob Hoskins on a higher- budgeted feature, TwentyFour Seven, which is released later this year.
28 "IE LIST 20 Feb-S Mar 1998
Flops and robbers: the cast of Small Time
Regional and domestic traits provide much of the fun in Small Time. Focusing on the dodgy deals of a bunch of unemployed lads in 'not London, not even Nottingham, this is Sneinton,’ — as Meadows's screen alter- ego Jumbo moans — Small Time's humour is similar to that of Mike Leigh. From petty crimes to lads at play to domestic dysfunction, Meadows's comic range proves to be broad. What sets the film apart from Leigh and
contemporary British comedies such as The Full Monty and Brassed Off is less engagement with political issues and more of an inherent sense of mischief.
Small Time opens and closes with its cast dancing maniacally to Gavin Clarke's funky soundtrack. Moreover, you can see the actors laughing under their breath, give-away smirks that are endearing rather than smug.
Screening along with Small Time is Where’s The Money Ronnie?, a superb example of one of dozens of short films Meadows churned out prior to his feature debut. Ronnie shares the flashback-to-a-crime structure of Reservoir Dogs, but here the crime is a post-armed robbery scufer between hooligans in a Midlands town centre, and one criminal's motive is re- decoration (new coving for his house, in fact).
These are smartly written, sharply acted films, stylishly shot and edited, cool without being pretentious in the least. Effortlessly entertaining, they are the work of an inSpired and original filmmaker whose movies leave you wanting more. (Miles Fielder)
I Glasgow: Gilmorehi/I, Fri 20 & Sat 27 Feb; GFT, Sun 22 Feb.
Desperate Measures (18) 100 mins t * ‘k
A film drawn from other films rather than any reflection of real life, you can almost imagine the genesis of this particular movie. A sweaty executive, running into his boss’s office, puffy hand holding a dog-eared piece of paper with the plot for this little pot- boiler scrawled upon it. ’Desperate cop with sick son needs an urgent bone marrow donor. But the only person in the city with a compatible match is an imprisoned psychopath! Imagine!‘
Yes, just imagine. It’s a very, very silly idea, redeemed only by the fact that, as the plot actually gets gomg and the psychopath (Michael Keaton) predictably escapes from his low security hospital, the cop (Andy Garcia) has to pursue him without killing him.
So it’s a quid pro quo deal for the audience as well as the characters. If you want the suspense of this unusual situation, then you have to deal quite quickly with the idiocy of the premise. If you can't, then avoid this film.
Barbet Schroeder, a director with a track record of decent relationship dramas — Reversal Of Fortune, Sing/e White Female — tries to imbue the plot with some grounding in reality as we recognise it. Keaton has great fun as the innocuous sounding Peter McCabe, wreaking havoc in an ageing hospital building, while poor old Andy Garcia draws the short straw with the rather colourless Frank Connor, driven by the most understandable (but not especially the most cinematic) of motives. As for the few scenes shared by McCabe and Connor’s son Matt, well you might just have trouble keeping your popcorn down.
But besides these moments, the flashes of senseless violence and devious plotting keep the mind engaged just enough to make the trip worthwhile. While it's no classic, Desperate Measures provides passable entertainment and should (by virtue of the genre and the names involved) do great video business later on. But it won't win awards or break box office records at the cinema. (Anwar Brett)
I General release from Fri 27 Feb.
The marrow never dies: Michael Keaton in Desperate Measures
STAR RATINGS run: enmissable *- ***’ . .. ' owaverage '- 't You’ve been Warned