Picks and Pans Review: The Butcher Boy

updated 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Stephen Rea, Fiona Shaw

The Butcher Boy is a brilliantly eccentric and chilling movie from director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), but it's not for the faint of heart. If you're squeamish, take this black comedy's title as fair warning. Young Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens), our vengeful protagonist, lives in Ireland in the early '60s with his drunken dad (Rea) and loony mother. Understandably angry, as well as overstimulated by a mix of Catholicism, anti-Communism and cheesy sci-fi movies, Francie focuses his wrath not on his parents but instead on a bourgeois neighbor lady (Shaw) who, when first we glimpse her, is striding through town as if she were Margaret Hamilton out stalking for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. In a film filled with good performances, the most astonishingly accomplished comes from acting tyro Owens, now 15. Blessed with an impish choirboy's face, he turns Francie into a character who can break your heart at the same time that he's cutting it out. (R)

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