VIDEO REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
The Boxer (18) CIC, rental HHHH

Fourteen years in prison has put former boxer Danny Flynn (a suitably sullen Daniel Day-Lewis) at odds with the outside world. Now ill-at-ease with his former IRA allegiance, he stirs up antagonism with former associates by starting a non-sectarian boxing club and tossing a cache of Semtex, discovered in the local community centre, into the river. And, earning the antipathy of Gerard McSorley's gun-toting hard man, he tries to rekindle his teenage romance with Maggie (Emily Watson), wife of an IRA prisoner. Jim Sheridan's melancholy drama doesn't quite reach the emotion turmoil of his In the Name of the Father, but this account of Belfast as it approaches the first cease-fire feels significantly more even-handed.

The Butcher Boy (15) Warner, rental HHH

Neil Jordan's twisted film follows the story of the irrepressible Francie (Eamonn Owen), whose nefarious antics terrorise the residents of a small Irish town in the early Sixties. Morose as ever, and sporting a hideous orange wig, Stephen Rea plays Francie's drunken father, who disintegrates further when his wife dies. As his family collapses, Francie finds himself in an asylum under the watchful eye of a paedophile. Feeling some sympathy for Francie becomes increasingly onerous as he screams insults, attacks his unsuspecting contemporaries and defecates on a neighbour's carpet. You begin to wish that Francie would see the error of his ways simply to save us from these scenes of unbridled dementia.

Downtime (15) Film Four, rental HHHH

This oddly gripping thriller sees a sparky Paul McGann playing Rob, a put-upon ex-police psychologist. As he prevents rancorous single mother Chrissie (Susan Lynch) from throwing herself off a Newcastle tower block, he decides to ask her out. But as they step out of her diminutive dwelling, they find themselves trapped in the lift after delinquents set fire to the machine room. Employing sardonic humour and the mandatory cute kid, director Bharat Nalluri succeeds, to a degree, in infusing gritty realism into the archetypal Hollywood actioner. A scene showing Chrissie dangling off a piece of metal by her impaled hand is enough to bring back your breakfast, but the hackneyed script leaves a lot to be desired.

The Simpsons Heaven and Hell (PG) Fox, retail, pounds 12.99 HHHHH

If the now (almost) regular Simpsons BBC shows are not enough, here are four more gems from the stockpile. These bastions of dysfunctionality form an acutely observed, ironic and affectionate critique of American culture (just wait until they get their hands on Clinton), here taking pot-shots at religion and superstition. Marge takes her holier-than-thou creed a step further as she becomes Springfield' "Lady Who Listens", while Homer, missing church one Sunday, discovers the pleasure of being home alone and decides that TV is the new religion. But disaster strikes when he falls asleep with a lighted cigar and his new-found doctrine turns to hellfire and damnation.

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