THE BUTCHER (2009) - DVD Movie Reviews
Most people wouldn’t know Jesse V. Johnson’s work if it came up and bit them on the ass. Hopefully that will change one day, because Johnson is one of the brightest and most talented directors working in the action genre today. Despite the fact that Johnson continues to receive low-budgets and be saddled with leading men like Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Mark Dacascos, and Dominiquie Vandenberg, he still manages to pump out ‘80s style action flicks that are just as entertaining as anything you’ll find in Hollywood. This time around Jesse Johnson takes the resurrected career of Eric Roberts
Roberts plays Merle Hench, a.k.a. The Butcher, a washed up mob tough guy who finds that everyone thinks he’s a joke. His boss tells him to retire, he can’t get laid, he’s an alcoholic, and he’s got himself a gambling problem. But all of that starts to change when The Butcher is set up by his own boss, which leads him down a road of revenge and redemption… a road paved with the mutilated bodies of generic gangster types. It’s your typical “old tough guy remembers to be tough again” tale, but it works for the most part.
Jesse V. Johnson is both the writer and director of this flick. As a director, he does a whole lot with not all that much. Johnson does a great job of making L.A. feel fresh and interesting as a backdrop to his tale. He doesn’t go to all the usual places to make the film, but finds the seedy back alleys and the over-crowded streets of the city to provide a little darkness, a little edge to his movie. L.A. hasn’t looked this dingy since Repo Man debuted. The pacing of the film is a little off, and Johnson spends a little too much time creating the character of The Butcher, as the first hour is basically watching him take shit from everyone and kick one or two asses. After the first hour though, Johnson lets loose with a frenetic barrage of gunfights and violence. It is in the film’s last 45 minutes that Johnson elevates himself, yet again, above the bulk of indie action directors. A Jesse V. Johnson shootout is a thing of beauty, a crimson-tinged assault of bullets, bodyparts and badassness.
Even better, the cast of the flick rises above the budget and their own failing careers. Eric Roberts, once a huge laughingstock, blazes the comeback trail that he began in such flicks as The Chaos Experiment and The Dark Knight. Roberts is perfect as the washed up tough guy, and you can’t help but see the similarity between the character in the film and the path that Roberts’ career has taken… which will hopefully reach top level when he appears in The Expendables next year. Keith David finally gives a solid performance after his stinky appearance in Against the Dark. David plays a nice guy bookie, who feels bad about roughing up one of his favorite clients. This is the old Keith David, the cool Keith David. The rest of the cast is rounded out with smaller performances from Robert Davi and Geoffrey Lewis, who are both as professional as they usually are.
An action movie is only as good as its fight sequences or its shootouts… and The Butcher has some killer shootouts. The film has a nice bodycount, all packed into the end of the movie, but nice nonetheless. People are blown apart by shotguns, blood runs like Coors Light at a frat party, and there’s even a killer head explosion. All of the effects are done in a practical manner and the end result is a shootout that is unforgettable.
The Butcher plays by its own rules. It eschews the movie doctrine of today’s action flicks which say you have to be loud, ultra-fast paced, and obnoxious to be a good action flick. Instead, The Butcher stands as a throwback to ‘80s action flicks, filled with deep characters, extreme violence, and all around enjoyability. If you miss the “good old days” of action flicks, then you should definitely check this out.
Final Synopsis: The Butcher has its flaws, but for such a low-budget, it’s pretty good. The shootout at the end of the movie is worth checking out by itself.
Points Lost: -1 for some pacing problems, -1 for some cinematography that isn’t as crisp as it could be, -1 for too much character development
Lesson Learned: Never mess with someone called The Butcher.
Burning Question: How long does it take for someone to die after they’ve been shot multiple times and are squirting blood from their neck?
For more information about The Butcher and World Films, including trailers of current and upcoming releases, visit www.worldfilms.com
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