|The Butcher Boy
1997 - R - 109 Mins.
|Director: Neil Jordan
|Producer: Neil Jordan, Redmond Morris, Stephen Woolley
|Written By: Neil Jordan and Pat McCabe
|Starring: Stephen Rea, Eamonn Owens, Sean McGinley, Peter Gowan, Alan Boyle
|Review by: Joe Rickey
A young Irish boy grows up in what would easily be termed a disadvantaged situation. First off, his father is a raving lunatic half the time because of his rampant drinking habit. It is not very often that his father is both conscious and sober. His mother, meanwhile, is a different type of raving maniac as she has seemingly been brainwashed by a difficult life and has never recovered. Coming from such a background, it would seem to be even more difficult for him to grow up with a sense of what is right, wrong, and simply what constitutes normal behavior. Nonetheless, miraculously, he is able to grow up with a love of talking to others, never mind that he is clearly not mentally sound.
Director Neil Jordan has had a long career in and out of Hollywood. He has directed films such as The Crying Game, a film that was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. He also has directed films such as In Dreams, a fairly Hollywoodized version of a psychological thriller. That film was outlandish while still being stylish and just plain entertaining. It never has found widespread acceptance after failing at the box office. Before that film, he directed Butcher Boy, starring Stephen Rea, who had gained acclaim in the aforementioned The Crying Game.
The Butcher Boy has Jordan’s trademark style from the opening credits. They are designed like the individual panels of a comic book. What is surprising is that the credits really do not fit with the rest of the film, as they seem to be the opening for a light-hearted adventure while The Butcher Boy is far from that. It is an often-depressing detour into the mind of a man who is obviously deranged. It illustrates just how adverse the effects of isolation as a child can be over the period of a person’s lifetime. It shows that the effects of isolation cannot be reversed and can even progress into something worse, like a complete mental breakdown. After the opening credits, Jordan finds his way and ably creates a world in which danger exists at every turn, the world of the troubled child. He utilizes a great script and perfects it with an acute sense of visual style.
The acting is stellar, especially from Rea and Eamonn Owens who plays the troubled child. Rea gives his clearly troubled alcoholic character just the right amount of spontaneity to be effective. Owens displays the troubles that his character has through facial expressions that, like pictures, speak louder than words. When he speaks out in a high-pitched voice his vivid performance comes clearly into focus. While The Butcher Boy has many positive qualities, it unfortunately is not all green pastures.
The film suffers at times from pacing problems. The film lags in the middle as it progresses its way towards an admittedly powerful finale. Some tightening in the editing room would have gone a long way in making the film a complete success.
Overall, The Butcher Boy is an emotionally stirring film with great performances and a powerful script with the only real detriment being that the pace sometimes lags.