The Butcher Boy, originally released in 1997 and based upon the 1992 book of the same name, has found its way to DVD. The film has been the recipient of numerous awards, with critics hailing it as a dark comedy unlike any other. To be completely honest, I had never heard of this picture before today, but I’ve always enjoyed these little Great Britain pictures, so here’s hoping it’s as good as some say.
Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens, Breakfast on Pluto) appears to be your typical schoolboy, spend…ng his days hanging out with his best lad, Joe. Until he gets home, at least, where things are rather atypical; his father is an abusive alcoholic and his mother is a self-loathing, suicidal woman. Amidst the dysfunction, Francie seems for the large part to be unaware of all the problems surrounding him and continues his days as if nothing fazed him. Things are put in perspective one day when the mother of a boy he bullied, Mrs. Nugent, verbally attacks his mother and calls his whole family a bunch of pigs. Shortly after this comment, Francie walks in on his mother attempting suicide, and he promises he will never let her die. This is where his obsession with the Nugents begins, already blaming them for his problems. Finally fed up with his father’s actions, Francie runs away and spends some time in Dublin where he becomes quite streetwise and spends most of his time thieving. Upon his return to his home there is a funeral presiding, and he soon finds out his mother has taken her own life. This fuels more hatred for the Nugents and things really start getting out of control; Francis becomes hallucinogenic and borderline psychotic.
The Butcher Boy was really a lot different than I ever anticipated. When they say this movie has dark humor, they sure do mean dark. This movie at times did make me laugh quite hard, but at other times left me with my head in the clouds. The final 15 or so minutes were of complete shock, something I’d never expected from this movie, and could be considered darkly comedic, or downright crazy. A movie like this is a rarity and its target audience is really hard to pin down, it’s essentially a hit or miss movie so some will hate it, while others might love it. Me, I was split down the middle slightly in favor of liking it. It was very different and worth a look.
The Butcher Boy is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film is 10 years old, and it does show with the transfer. Colors especially can look washed out from time to time. Luckily, the film’s detail was impressive, rarely looking soft. The source material looks a bit haggard with grain constantly present through the film’s many dark shots; as well we get the occasional scene with artifacting. In the end it’s an average transfer – nothing great, nothing terrible.
Warner has included a 5.1 Dolby Digital track with The Butcher Boy. The film itself is told in large part by narration, which thankfully always sounded crisp and clear. Dialogue spoken by the actors was also impressive at times, but some sounded too flat or tinny. There are a few scenes that will fire up your rear channels, usually when Francie goes psycho or when the musical track plays. There are also a few subtle effects such as a scene where Ava Maria is heard playing in the background; this was quiet but heard clearly through all channels. There is still no denying that the track relies heavily on the front channels. Despite its shortcomings, the track still sounds good overall.
Not much in the special features department, as could be expected from a low-budget release like this. They are, however, worth checking out.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by director/co-screenwriter Neil Jordan. A fairly interesting commentary track talking about numerous things ranging from the making of the film to comparisons with the novel.
Additional Scenes: A few extra scenes that are worth looking at once, but ultimately I can see why they were left on the cutting room floor.
Theatrical Trailer: Nice to have, but obviously it doesn’t add much depth to the DVD experience.
The film was good but not great, essentially very weird but that its appeal. There isn’t much replay value out in this picture, as its novelty and unpredictability is forever wasted after watching it once, so purchasing it isn’t really suggested. The special features are overall lackluster and the audio and video aren’t too impressive, overall the disc wasn’t of much quality and can only be suggested to fans of the movie that would like to finally own it on DVD.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary
- Additional scenes
- Theatrical trailer