"The Last Laugh" finds its way to the Michigan Theater. The silent
classic by F.W. Murnau details the turmoil of a dejected doorman
who faces the trials of the employment world. The film relies on cine-
matography to express what only words normally could. The laughs
begin at 4:10 p.m. Admission is $5.
January 12, 1998
Far from a knockout,
'Boxer' packs very little punch
By Ryan Posly
Daily Arts Writer
It's an interesting experiment: taking "Rocky" and
transplanting it into the crumbling buildings and lit-
tered streets of war-torn Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The filmmakers saw it as an opportunity to explore
a number of topics: boxing, the IRA, violence, love
conquering all. It's too bad that they were barely
able to scratch the surface of any of them.
"The Boxer" reteams the makers of "in The Name
Of The Father," the captivating 1993 film about a
man wrongly accused of an IRA bombing, writer-
director-producer Jim Sheridan, co-writer Terry
George and star Daniel Day-Lewis.
While that film focused on an important true
story (the trials of the Guildford Four), "The Boxer"
tells a smaller, more intimate story about two people
fighting for love amidst the local IRA's internal con-
When we meet Danny Flynn (Day-Lewis), he is
being released from a 14-year prison sentence
ambiguously involving his previous affiliation with
the IRA. But he has since rescinded his allegiance
with that group, an act that makes him less than wel-
come when he returns to his old home in Belfast. He
tries to reopen the community gym, as well as kick
start his boxing career again, but his peaceful, non-
sectarian attitude upsets certain players in the local
On the other side of the story is Maggie (Emily
Watson, breathtaking and Oscar-nominated in
1995's "Breaking the Waves"), a so-called "prison-
er's wife" who was once in love with Danny. ier
memory is all that has kept Danny sane while in
Their love is now forbidden, though, because
Maggie must remain faithful to the cause, which
means staying faithful to her husband in prison. To
complicate matters further. Maggie's father (Brian
Cox) is the head of the local IRA. Danny's meddling
presence is making matters worse still, especially in
the midst of delicate peace talks with the British
The film does a wonderful jobR
of highlighting the religious
basis of "the troubles," the pro- 1
foundly deep-running animosity
between Catholics and
Protestants. Rarely do films
dealing with the IRA emphasize
this conflict. Danny's non-sectarian gym succeeds
for a brief moment before the people's ingrained
intolerance gets the better of them and they riot in a
harrowing scene of senseless violence.
The film puts a new spin on the typical us-vs.-
them IRA conflict, as well. There is no evil England
here; all the violence in the film is instigated by one
rogue IRA member who sees no justice in the peace
The members of the IRA say they're fighting for;
peace, but when it seems like it might finally come,
they don't know what to do with it. The response is
While the ideas and moderate stance are novel,
"The Boxer" suffers from a real lack of substanc
Throughout the film, much of the past is shroude
in mystery, especially Danny's crime, but the mvs-
tery is never resolved.
Without a solid sense of who these characters are,
we never get a clear insight into who they've
become. And whenever they do refer to the past, it's
always with such vague, trite
N i u W lines as "We're not kids anymore
L v L. Yr
The Boxer Violence erupts at several key
intervals, but forward movemer
** is slow. The film thus relic
At Showcase heavily on dialogue, but it is not
Faced with such obstacles, Watson and Day-
Lewis turn in the best performances they can,
appearing stoic until they can't contain their emo-
tions anymore, and they come flooding out in the
film's attempt to drown the violence with love.
The film doesn't claim a simple solution to "the
troubles," but it does pretend to offer hope through
love, a simple assertion for an all-too-simple film,.
"Boxer" Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) puts the moves on Maggie (Emily Watson).
Machines kill holiday blues
Satiric 'Wag' gives no great shakes
By Gabe Fajuri
Daily Arts Writer
This was the second year in a row
that Detroit's favorite sons, the Suicide
Machines, played multiple dates at the
same venue during the holiday season
in their hometown. Last year, a three-
show fiesta was held at the Magic Stick,
and this year, festivities were taken to
the larger St. Andrew's Hall for two
The Dec. 28 show was, like the pre-
vious night, a sold-out event. While the
Suicides had been at Clutch Cargo's
earlier in 1997 (sometime in the early
fall), kids, teens, college students and
even some parents were all anxious for
another dose of down -home goodness.
After two opening acts and a momen-
tum-killing racial slur by a drunk, the
Suicide Machines took to the stage
around 9:45 p.m., to the cheers and
chants of the crowd. The boys launched
into a set full of oldies (including selec-
tions from "Destruction by Definition")
sprinkled with new songs that should
surface on their second major-label
release sometime during the year.
The new material ranged in tone
from heavily hardcore-influenced to
much more danceable and ska-influ-
enced sounds - definitely a broader
spectrum of sound than the
"Destruction" album. For those who
didn't make it to the show, the only way
to hear this is their next release.
Speaking of records, both shows at
St. Andrew's were taped for a live
record that the Suicide Machines intend
to release in this year along with their
studio album. Look for some choice
comments amidst the music, by bassist
Lead singer Jay Navarro told us all to
Suicide Machines slayed St. Andrew's.
ignore the drunk who stormed the stage
earlier, and the evening continued as
planned. Navarro also told the multi-gen-
erational crowd, at evening's end, to say
good-bye to Derek (the drummer) as he's
going to be leaving the band in the not-
so-distant future. Wait a minute, didn't
they say that at the Clutch Cargo's gig?
The group turned in a good, if not
great, performance. Of all the shows
I've seen them play, this was certainly
one of the best. Their set was loud, tight.
fast and enjoyable. And. as usual, any-
one who wanted a chance to sing along
By Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud
Dailv Arts Writer
Satire is probably the hardest film genre to pull off well.
Satires have to be bitingly funny while retaining a certain real-
"Wag the Dog." the latest film from director Barry Levinson,
does neither, often dishing up flaccid com-
mentary and ludicrously exaggerated R
Ultimately, the biggest damiper on this
movie is the predictability of the jokes.
Some of the cracks in "Wag the Dog" will
sound very familiar; there is nothing earth-
shatteringly innovative about the humor.
These same tired political witticisms are recycled in a smug
fashion. "Wag the Dog" is a movie that is self-consciously oh-
so-clever, full of barbed quips that are more
canned than fresh.
Robert DeNiro plays Conrad [3rcan. a savvy
and confident problem solver of the first rank.
The White House recruits his wit to rectify the
latest political crisis that has placed the
president's future on a rocky path.
Information has been leaked to the
press that the president engaged in ill-
suited behavior with a 15-year-old
Firefly girl. Bad timing! With the elec-4
tion only two weeks away, what can the
president do to salvage his bid'?
Enlisted by the president to fix the}
problem, Conrad dishes out absurd'
orders to the executive staff, telling
them cryptically to say one thing to
the press and then another, causing
more eyebrow raising thdn support.
His associate in the White House is
presidential aide Win i fred Ames (Anne
Heche). She plays the naive Washington
acolyte, a woman not fully aware of the
chicaneries of politics. Conrad molds
Winifred into a hardened cynic.
Winifred often looks at Conrad in a
"gosh darn it, lhe's so smart" manner,
despite her hesitatingz conscience.
Conrad willingly lives ulp to Winifired's
admiring glances by delivering many
glib pronouncements onl the public's stu-
From Washington, the duo moves
on to Hollywood. There, Conrad hires Robert DeNiro and Ann
Stanley Mlotss (Dustin I-ofian), a spin on satire in "Wag
V I E W told.
Although most of the jokes are stale and
lag the Dog predictable, there were many deliciously
At one point, the presidential staff
At Showcase watches a tape featuring a commercial that
will run after the scandal in the White
House is exposed. The tape features a shot that zooms in on one
of the White House windows while a baritone voice-over con-
demns the president to the tune of "Thank Heaven for Littlg
film producer who needs a challenge. His task is to produce a
war that will distract Americans from the president's philander-
In short shrift, Stanley maximizes his artistic talents to pro-
duce a war with Albania. "Why Albania?" you may ask. As
Conrad so mirthlessly states, the public knows nothing about
Albania and will believe whatever they are
dic touch comes with the musical numbers in
ag the Dog" No war is complete without a
triotic jingle. Willie Nelson plays Johnny
reen, the country-western songster who creates
a "We-Are-The-World"- type number to
unite the hearts of Americans every-
"Wag the Dog" goes too far in its
caricature of politics and Hollywood-
There is no subtlety to this satir4
Either the characters are wholly cyni,
cal, completely naive or maddeningly
4 s:enraptured by the production of this
We are neant to identify with
Heche her naivete with the ways of
the world is supposed to reflect our
own delusion. Yet, no one in the real
s world is quite as politically gullible as
DeNiro is irritatiiig as a kniow-it-all
and Hoffhian is equally obnoxious as@4
producer looking for something to dispel
Woody Harrelsoii puts iii a greatcameo
as a crazed war hero left behind the lines
- a perfect hero who turns out to be a per-
fect, nuii-rapiiig psycho.
"Wag the Dog" fails to produce laughter
because it goes over the top, losiiig itself in
improbability and iiiplausibility. The film
ris very slick and well shot, but lacks th
spontaneity needed to cariy the satire genre
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