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The Boxer (18). Film's inherent reductiveness has rarely been more evident than in the growing subgenre of political dramas about Northern Ireland, but the latest collaboration between director Jim Sheridan and writer Terry George succeeds largely by keeping its ambitions on a human scale. With a typically obsessive three-year training period under his belt, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a Belfast boxer and former IRA member who's spent virtually all his adult life behind bars. With his face somewhere between gaunt and chiselled, Day-Lewis definitely looks the part). Released from prison at 32, he returns home, to the scene of old grudges and festering secrets, in the hope of a reconciliation with his teenage sweetheart (Emily Watson). The script relies on the actors to inhabit the most awkward gaps; seeing each other for the first time in over a decade, the thwarted lovers are initially able to communicate only in embarrassed glances and silences. The movie owes its vigour and emotional potency to the extraordinary lead performances: Watson's instincts are uncanny, and Day-Lewis is even more electrifying than usual. Taking a hard look at the personal toll of a culture of violence, The Boxer is, for its relative understatement, one of the most visceral love stories in years.

Wild Man Blues (12). Barbara Kopple's documentary follows Woody Allen, his lover (now wife) Soon-Yi Previn, and his Dixieland jazz band on an 18-city European tour. Allen and his screen persona are notoriously inseparable, and what we get here, predictably, is familiar from most of his films (only not nearly as funny, not to mention inevitably creepier). Alongside generous concert footage, Allen's trademark quirks and neuroses are faithfully recorded: his paralysing phobias, his social maladroitness, his self-mocking crankiness. Kopple even throws in the odd Freudian insight. The film climaxes with a visit to Allen's parents, who are disappointed with him for not becoming a pharmacist or marrying a nice Jewish girl. Kopple is an accomplished documentary film-maker (she won Oscars for investigative work like Harlan County, USA and American Dream), and this must count as something of a hack assignment for her. Wild Man Blues assumes the guise of cinema verite, but one can't help feeling that it's only ever as revealing as its subject wants it to be.