“The Boxer” enters the Oscar ring with considerable weapons in its corner. Pound-for-pound, few films this season carry the kind of Oscar pedigree of this one. Star Daniel Day-Lewis is a perennial Oscar-scale actor, combining the kind of manly heroism, dark sex appeal and actorly punching power with which the Academy habitually responds.
On paper, “The Boxer” suggests that unlike last year’s disappointing “‘The Crucible,” Day-Lewis has an action-filled, emotionally-laden role with some of the sentimental elements of sports movies. And heating things up considerably is a romance between Day-Lewis and last year’s Oscar contender Emily Watson (“Breaking the Waves”).
Most promising of all for “The Boxer” is the reunion this film marks for Day-Lewis and writer/director Jim Sheridan, whose “My Left Foot” garnered the actor Oscar for Day-Lewis in 1989, as well as a statuette for supporting actress Brenda Fricker and noms for best picture, adapted screenplay and director.
The duo teamed up again on the Oscar-nommed “In the Name of the Father,” but that Irish film lost out in several major categories in the year of “Schindler’s List,” and it’s possible that the Academy may view this as Sheridan’s, George’s and Day-Lewis’ time (as well as Watson’s, who lost last year). Then again, the group is once again up against Mighty Steven Spielberg and the highly-touted “Amistad.” As it so often has happened for the Irish, history could repeat itself.
Classic Oscar credentials: 3 (The period-historical setting)
Cause celebre: 4 (Could there be the Irish rebel factor once again?)
Vanity element: 5 (Day-Lewis and Sheridan: Irish pride)
The David vs. Goliath Syndrome: 5 (A studio product, but it’s about the little guy)
The feel-good movie of the year: 4 (A pugilistic knockout punch?)
The unavoidable, inexorable buzz: 3 (Day-Lewis groupies live)
Idiot savants have more fun: 1 (This ain’t “My Left Hook”)
Timing is everything: 9 (Christmas week opening is a gift)
O.Q. total: 34