The Green Butchers

Writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen's melancholy black comedy mines the deep vein of flat-out weirdness that runs through an apparently sleepy, picturesque Danish community. It's hard to say why Svend (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are friends, except that they're united by mutual oddness. Self-righteous, perpetually ill-at-ease Svend is...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen's melancholy black comedy mines the deep vein of flat-out weirdness that runs through an apparently sleepy, picturesque Danish community. It's hard to say why Svend (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are friends, except that they're united by mutual oddness. Self-righteous, perpetually ill-at-ease Svend is coated with a constant sheen of nervous sweat, while Bjarne, whose parents and wife died in a car crash seven years earlier, drifts indifferently through life on a marijuana cloud. Svend has a girlfriend, Tina (Bodil Jorgensen), though she's just about at the end of her tether. The reclusive Bjarne has a hobby: killing small animals and meticulously assembling their skeletons. Both work for the insufferable "Sausage" Holger (Ole Thestrup), whose daily barrage of vicious belittling convinces them to open their own shop. Svend mortgages his modest house for start-up money. The impecunious Bjarne authorizes pulling the plug on his comatose, brain-damaged twin, Eigil (also Kaas) — whom Bjarne blames for the accident that killed the rest of their family — and borrows against his impending inheritance. The shop, Svend and Company, gets off to a disastrous start: There are no customers on opening day and Svend accidentally locks their electrician in the meat freezer overnight. Then, panicked by Holger's malicious insistence that the shop provide meat for his upcoming Rotary Club dinner, Svend carves up the dead electrician's leg and marinates it like chicken fillets. Svend's ghoulishly improvised "chickie-wickies" are a smash and the following morning there's a neatly dressed mob milling around outside the shop in hopes of securing some of the tasty morsels. Bjarne and Svend are overnight celebrities, but the logistics of ensuring a steady supply of their very special ingredient poses all manner of problems, especially for Bjarne. Already bedeviled by Eigil, who regained consciousness when his ventilator was shut off, Bjarne has begun a tentative romance with the lovely, orphaned Astrid (Line Kruse), who was raised by a kindly local priest (Aksel Erhardtsen) who survived a mountain plane crash by eating his wife; revelations of murder and cannibalism could easily sour any relationship, but this one is especially vulnerable. A prolific screenwriter whose credits include WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF and OPEN HEARTS (both 2002), THE KING IS ALIVE (2000) and MIFUNE (1999), Anders discloses his series of unfortunate events calmly and without conventional comic flourishes. The result isn't exactly funny, just profoundly peculiar and even occasionally, unexpectedly poignant.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen's melancholy black comedy mines the deep vein of flat-out weirdness that runs through an apparently sleepy, picturesque Danish community. It's hard to say why Svend (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are fri… (more)

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