I don’t know if this says anything about me, but I love this movie.
Featuring a black-as-night sense of humor, The Butcher Boy tells the tale of one Francie Brady, a little bastard of the highest order. Francie, our hero, is blessed with psychological problems, a serious mean streak and a perfectly dysfunctional home life in the form of a dreadfully depressed mother and a father best described as a drink-’til-he-drops-dead alcoholic. The film follows the little tyke as he maneuvers his way through his increasingly chaotic, violent, confusing and thoroughly disturbing life. Through no real fault of his own, every element of Francie’s life falls apart and to add a little spice to things he muddies the waters himself by perpetrating a descending series of transgressions, each leading him deeper down a path from which no one involved will escape unscathed.
Neil Jordan’s triumph with this film is the way in which he takes the above nightmare scenario and turns it into an enjoyable, if unsettling, story. He’s helped in this odd quest by Stephen Rea (Adult Francie and- voice-over) and Eamonn Owens (Young Francie) who successfully share the title role. Owens’ performance is wonderfully obnoxious and tempered with just enough frailty to turn this beastly lad into something that resembles a sympathetic character. Rea is wonderful as usual and turns in a full day’s work; doing a scene as the adult Francie, double duty as the father and providing voice-over narration throughout.
Recommended, although not for the uptight or the strongly religious.
This review originally appeared in Boston's Weekly Dig (now digBoston) in February 2000.