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'Butchers': A So-So Stew

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2004; Page WE41

THE BEST THING I can say about "The Green Butchers" is that it's a dark comedy about cannibalism. The worst thing I can say about "The Green Butchers" is that it's a dark comedy about cannibalism.

I hope I haven't spoiled anything for anyone.

Nikolaj Lie Kaas, left, and Mads Mikkelsen graduate from pork to people in "The Green Butchers," a Danish comedy about cannibalism with a fair share of reheated yuks. (Rolf Konow -- Newmarket Films)

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What do you want me to write? That "The Green Butchers" is a movie about a couple of meat biz novices who learn the importance of the proper marinade while struggling to make a go of it in a cutthroat --

I mean dog-eat-dog . . .

See, it isn't easy.

But you catch my drift, which is precisely this: It's the sick humor that's most appealing about this odd little Danish film from Anders Thomas Jensen about people who eat people. On the other hand, it's the sick humor that's most gimmicky, too. Take away that shtick, and what have you got? A movie about two guys making sausage (the "green" of the title refers to their inexperience). Along the way, one of them, Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), also reconciles with his until-recently comatose, brain-damaged twin brother, Egil (Kaas again), and finds a girlfriend, Astrid (Line Kruse). The other one, Svend (Mads Mikkelsen), well, he sweats a lot.

What's that, you say? You want me to back up to that part about the comatose brother and the girlfriend? Oh, that. Yes, there is a real plot here. I'm just not sure it matters much, next to the distracting fact that the protagonists spend most of their time making and serving what they call "chicky-wicky" cutlets to an increasingly ravenous (and clueless) clientele, whose newfound taste for the other other white meat results in Svend's ever-more-murderous behavior.

Oh what the heck, I'm going to say it. This movie should be called "Svend Todd."

It all starts, innocently enough, when an electrician accidentally freezes to death after getting trapped overnight in the boys' new meat locker. Svend, somewhat preposterously, panics, with a reluctant Bjarne stepping in to take over on cleaver duty only after he finds that his partner has already chopped off the guy's leg and sold pieces of it as boneless, skinless breast meat. When that meat sells out, but the demand doesn't stop, Svend is forced to move on to, er, fresh kills. Next to go is the real estate agent who found him and Bjarne the shop, a stranger Svend encounters in the park, Egil's nurse and Svend's ex-girlfriend. It's only when Svend tries to put Egil and Astrid on ice that Bjarne balks, leading to the film's somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.

Whether they get away with it -- and how -- I'll not say. After all, I don't want to completely spoil your appetite.

THE GREEN BUTCHERS (R, 100 minutes) -- Contains obscenity, morbid imagery and drug references. In Danish with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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