Daniel Day-Lewis plays Danny, a former IRA member who has just finished serving a prison term of 14 years. Once the finest boxer in Belfast, he returns to his bleak, war-torn home to set up a boxing club with his old trainer (Ken Stott). However, his strong, silent streak of independence troubles the tightly knit community of radicals in the neighborhood. He earns the ire of a hardcore IRA lieutenant (Gerald McSorley) by making his boxing club nonsectarian — open to both Catholics and Protestants — and then by accepting boxing equipment from the police. When Danny begins to pine over Maggie (Emily Watson), his childhood sweetheart who is now the wife of an IRA prisoner, her father Joe Hamill (Brian Cox) worries about the consequences. He's the head of the IRA who has negotiated a precarious ceasefire with the English.

Written by Terry George and directed by Jim Sheridan, The Boxer is a well-acted, heartfelt drama. It salutes the moral fiber of this pugilist who is fed up with violence and wants nothing more than to help the kids in his community grow up in a city free of random death and senseless bloodshed. He just wants to give peace a chance. The little steps Danny takes toward this goal are fueled by his love for Maggie and the hope in his heart for a better life.