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
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