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The Butcher Boy

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Butcher Boy

Starring: Eamonn Owens, Stephen Rea
Director: Neil Jordan
Rated: R
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Horror

*Also starring: Fiona Shaw, Sinead O'connor, Ian Hart, Pat Mccabe, Andrew Fullerton

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

THE CRYING GAME's director, Neil Jordan, is at it again with a movie called THE BUTCHER BOY that packs some big "surprises." This time its twists are gruesome rather than sexual, and the movie itself is a black comedy instead of a drama. The body of the film doesn't work - it isn't funny - and the "surprises" in its conclusion really aren't all that unpredictable.

One of the best parts of the movie is the slaphappy jazz rendition of the pop tunes of the early 60s era in which the story is set. At the beginning and the end is a rendition of "Mack the Knife" that is but one of many hints as to where the story is headed.

Eamonn Owens gives a strong performance as Francie Brady, a loud-mouthed kid with a suicidal mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) and a drunken father (Stephen Rea). His mother is a "bun lady" who, when she starts baking, fills every nook and cranny of the house with sweet buns. We see (ha ha) a half-eaten one going round and round on the record being played on the family's turntable. His father is a trumpet player who kicks in the television set when it does work right - another of the story's many unoriginal ideas.

The movie is a coming-of-age picture with the demented Francie going from one trouble to another. He's a bully with a winsome smile but without limits to his deviant behavior. Defecating in the living room of a woman whose house he has just trashed is one of his milder forms of torment. Many members of my audience thought his behavior was a laugh riot, but I never found it funny, only pathetic.

The comedy tries to be so over-the-top that I swear I could hear a subliminal laugh track. The zany music almost demands laugher.

Using the canonical cliche of that era, THE BUTCHER BOY, based on Pat McCabe's book, has everyone obsessed that the Communists are going to drop the atomic bomb on them. Typical of Jordan's utter lack of subtlety is that he cuts from a scene of Francie trashing a neighbor's kitchen to their television set, which shows an atomic bomb exploding.

When Francie is sent away to a religious school as punishment, he becomes a local hero by claiming to see and talk with the Virgin Mary, played in a holy sheen by Sinead O'Connor. Francie even begins to believe his own con.

One good performance does not a movie make. And a comedy that isn't funny is an oxymoron.

THE BUTCHER BOY runs too long at 1:48. It is rated R for profanity and graphic violence and would be fine for older teenagers.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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