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The Butcher Boy
DVD disk
02.20.2007 By: Mathew Plale
The Butcher Boy order
Director:
Neil Jordan

Actors:
Eamonn Owens
Alan Boyle
Stephen Rea

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Neil Jordan's 1997 film follows a young hellraiser who finds violent solace and escape from his neglectful parents and neighboring adults in 1960s Ireland.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Neil Jordan’s 1997 film The Butcher Boy has striking similarities to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Les Mistons, as well as Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange—though with a much more satiric style. And though it’s nowhere close to being as utterly brilliant as those mentioned, Jordan’s film is a very fine tribute.

The lead character, Francie Brady (a great child performance by Eamonn Owens), is a lonely youth who can only find bonds in his friends, much like Antoine Doinel in Truffaut’s work, and Alex DeLarge in Kubrick’s. Francie is trouble. He harasses a local boy into giving him his comics. The boy’s mother and town gossip, Mrs. Nugent (Fiona Shaw) is consistently on the receiving end of Francie’s torture.

Francie lives at home with his parents, known only to us as Da and Ma. Both Stephen Rea and Aisling O’Sullivan give outstanding turns as the alcoholic father and the suicidal mother, respectively. Francie’s unstable (yet caring) relationship with his parents, as a Psychology textbook may put it, prevents him from forming any bonds other than that with his trustworthy best friend, Joe, whom he spends time with heckling the locals.

And with such a household to live in, and with impending doom seemingly lurking not just in shadows, but in broad daylight, we can find sympathy in Francie’s menacing actions…if we try. But since these extreme lengths taken by the young boy may be (rightfully) seen as unforgivable and simply disgusting (his knife-wielding and writing “PIG” in blood on walls reminds us of the Manson Family), Francie is hard to “understand” when we’re intended to.

Francie’s actions are nothing short of anarchic—a sort of grade-school version of A Clockwork Orange. It’s no coincidence that Jordan’s film opens similar to how Kubrick’s ends.

The Butcher Boy blends realism with nightmarish fantasy, tied together with a novel-esque narrative (the film is based on co-writer Pat McCabe’s novel). The style Neil Jordan presents makes it difficult to connect with the film, maybe even impossible, making for a very cold watch. Jordan seems to be perfectly content with keeping his audience at some kind of distance, which is enough to turn any viewer off…not to mention the thicker-than-peanut-butter Irish accents that, for an American ear, may require subtitles.

Let me issue a final warning: if you're not the kind who digs post-Pope-hatin' Sinéad O'Connor playing a foul-mouthed Our Lady, then this film is certainly not for you.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by director Neil Jordan: The monotonous Jordan is quite dull to listen to, and leaves tiny gaps galore. The pace gets picked up when he provides insight into Irish tradition, the reflections on Jonesboro, and an amusing theory on the difference between professional and amateur burglars (hint: one leaves something extra special).

And 3 Deleted Scenes (3:21) and the Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The Butcher Boy is not an accessible film by any means, but those looking for a bizarre, sometimes trippy film may find it to be their cup o' tea. After 10 years of being absent on DVD in the States, Jordan aficionados can finally take home their beloved Butcher, even if it is light on extras.
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