The Butcher Boy (1998)

Directed by Neil Jordan
Written by Neil Jordan & Patrick McCabe, based on the novel by McCabe
Starring Stephen Rea, Eamonn Owens, Fiona Shaw, Alan Boyle, Andrew Fullerton

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

Neil Jordan takes the story of a boy from a disturbed home (suicidal mother, drunkard father) along with how he was simply destined to be a murderous, evil brat, and tries to make it either a dark comedy or a compelling drama.  He somehow manages to make neither one work.

We are told very early on that Francie (Owens), the boy in question, is doomed to a bad lot, since our narrator on this journey is the elder Francie (Rea) looking back on his life.  We are exposed to his mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) who really isn't coping well (and who likes making cakes), and his father (also Rea) who, well, coulda been a contenda, if you know what I mean.  Francie's only companion is his best friend Joe (Boyle), who he would go to the wall for.  His favorite sport is offending and otherwise menacing Mrs. Nugent (Shaw) and her son Philip (Fullerton), since Mrs. N once called Francie and his family "pigs."  He therefore acts like a pig around her, and the lengths to which he goes to be porcine are supposedly laughable.

The key word there is "supposedly."  The only portions of this film that I found to even make me smirk where when Rea's older Francie would interact with the younger Francie as either commentator or the "voice" in Francie's head, inciting him to do certain things.  I found that Owens gave a solid performance given the material he had to work with, but that was little to none.  All of the supposedly disturbing and dramatic elements of the film (of which I can't mention here for spoiler reasons, you'll know them when you see them) have been done better and elsewhere.  They were spottable a mile away and therefore no big deal.  What we're left with is something that is too busy winking to be taken seriously and too busy taking itself seriously to make someone laugh.  Thus, the whole thing falls down.  Not much to commend this film, although it's interesting to see Sinead O'Connor as the Virgin Mary, and to hear her say "Oh, for f#*%'s sake."  That's about the extent of the amusement, I fear.

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