Wednesday, August 14, 2013

917. The Butcher Boy (1997)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Neil Jordan
Written By: Neil Jordan, Pat McCabe, from novel by Pat McCabe
Main Cast: Eamonn Owens, Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw, Alan Boyle, Aisling O'Sullivan
Click here to view the trailer


Yep, this is one of the handful of films they cut out of the 6th Edition (U.S.) of THE BOOK. Speaking of BOOK editions, I've been notified by Barron's that they will be sending me a review copy of the 7th Edition of THE BOOK and that it should be arriving by the middle of September, so that will be something to look forward to. Anyway, onto the business at hand - "The Butcher Boy".

Francie Brady (Owens) is the main character - a twelve-year-old boy, who has a best friend named Joe (Boyle) and a wild imagination. Truth be told, Francie is a bit of a bully, teaming up with Joe to single out and continually pick on fellow youth Phillip Nugent. Phillip's mother, Mrs. Nugent (Shaw), tries her best to protect her frail son, but Francie isn't afraid of a her, just because she's an adult. At home, Francie is forced to deal with his alcoholic father (Rea) and depressed mother (O'Sullivan), but leans on Joe - his blood brother for life - to get him through the tougher times. After Francie shows an act of defiance that turns into an act of vandalism on Mrs. Nugent's home, he is sent away to a Catholic reform school. This all comes after the suicide of his mother. At reform school, Francie begins to see visions of the Virgin Mary, is molested by a priest, is visited by his remorseful father and decides to trade in his bullying ways to take a shot at the "Francie Brady: Not a Bad Bastard Anymore" diploma. He is eventually released from reform school and returns to his father; although is father is at the end of his rope, near death.


You know, as easy as this was to get through, I can very easily see why they chopped this one from the 6th edition. I'd call it average at best and average does not a must see movie make. Before I get into the bad, however, let me take a moment to recognize the talents of Eamonn Walker. Now, I've noted on the blog in the past that I'm allergic to films with kids in them (as frequent commenter Ray puts it), but this kid was fabulous! I mean, even near the end of the film, I still found myself in awe of how insanely, uniquely good this kid's performance was. I'd even go so far as to say he upstaged Stephen Rea, who I consider to be a fine actor in his own right. Alan Boyle was also VERY good too and it makes you wonder what they're feeding the kids overseas to get them to be such superb actors. I'll go so far as to say that Eamonn Walker turned in the greatest child performance I've EVER seen. Now, I hate kid actors, so that's not really saying much, but he was THAT good. The story was so-so, however. Sometimes engaging and other times forcing me to question: "Why do I care?", "What are we building toward here?", etc, etc.

I'm not sure, am I supposed to be questioning whether or not Francie ACTUALLY killed Mrs. Nugent at the end of the picture or is it possible that this final act was all in Francie's head and that he spent the a very long time in, not prison, but a psychiatric ward, coming out as an adult and looking EXACTLY like his father. Speaking of that, just get another actor to play adult Francie! Don't parade the same guy out there in a duel role. I don't know what we were supposed to think really, and that's kind of the tone for the whole movie. What are we supposed to be building toward? Is the film about a boy and his feud with his adult neighbor and her son? OR is it about the mental stability of a young child, who was forced to deal with bad parents and some other rough shit? It was just sort of all over the map and didn't seem to have a really clear direction. I wanted to like it, especially after loving the kid's performance so much and the camerawork, which seemed to be shot for a much better film. However, in the end, I just had a *meh* feeling.

RATING: 5/10  Split it right down the middle and call it a day. Perhaps a re-watch or some time to reflect will help the case of "The Butcher Boy", but for now call it a good decision on Mr. Schneider's part to cut the fat.


August 14, 2013  11:33pm


  1. Well done for a good review of a not all that notable film.
    In fact I quite disliked it, but I always struggle with 'Unpleasant thuggish kids are not really bad' films, so my opinion is not all that valid.
    The end.

    1. Thank you Ray. It wasn't the "bad boy isn't all that bad" element that got me, it was other things that were lost on me. Just didn't take to it.


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