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  • Benjamin May

The Green Butchers (2003) Review

Svend and Bjarne are friends and butchers in a small village in Denmark. Eccentric characters both, they grow irritated with the tactics of their smarmy boss, Holger, deciding to establish their own meat emporium. On opening day, a freak accident involving an electrician leads to the birth of Svend's new delicacy, 'Chickie-Wickies.' The mysterious marinaded meat proves immensely popular, and the business thrives. However, the machinations of their former employer- as well as the arrival of Bjarne's twin brother Eigil- complicates matters, threatening to shutter the shop forevermore, in Anders Thomas Jensen's 'The Green Butchers.'

A raucous black comedy grounded in realism, 'The Green Butchers' is original, clever and wildly enjoyable. Jensen's second feature film, the story is unpredictable and darkly humorous, featuring much sharp dialogue and witty banter. Jensen's characters are majoritively finely drawn and believable, with Svend and Bjarne being especially well-rounded. Admittedly, some of the supporting ones dwell in the realm of caricature, most notably the cartoonishly fiendish Holger and Bjarne's brother Eigil. On the whole though, the narrative is bursting at the seams with originality and dark humor which will leave one amused; if not oft convulsed with laughter.

The film features cinematography from Sebastian Blenkov, whose work is striking and naturalistic. Blenkov and Jensen have worked together numerous times, and the results of their collaborations are always visually interesting. The utilization of lighting and color in 'The Green Butchers' is especially notable and effective, lending to the film an aura of unreality despite the grounded nature of Blenkov's approach. In conjunction with Mia Stensgaard's arresting production design and Jacob Wirth Carlsen's detailed set decoration, Blenkov's visuals have impact that will be felt long after the credits have rolled.

Another frequent collaborator of Jensen, editor Anders Villadsen's work on 'The Green Butchers' is consummate and swift. Running at a little over an hour and a half, the film has a steady pace that doesn't falter or drag, even in its' quieter moments- a testament to Villadsen's impressive efforts. Additionally, Jeppe Kaas's soundtrack is atmospheric, making productive use of pieces by Wagner and Kai Normann Andersen, among others. Kaas's original score is muted and melodic, giving the film supplementary power and tone. Also of note is Malin Birch-Jensen, Morten Jacobsen and Charlotte Laustsen's work involving makeup (and relative effects), which is of a particularly high quality.

'The Green Butchers' stars Mads Mikkelsen as Svend and Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Bjarne and his brother Eigil, respectively; and each turn in a strong performance. Both Mikkelsen and Lie Kass have appeared in every one of Jensen's feature length directorial efforts, and the three obviously have a great working relationship; as their collaborations always make for worthwhile viewing. Here, Lie Kaas shows off his range, both as a straight man- Bjarne- and as a comedic foil- Eigil- impressing with his composure and depth. In fact, one might have assumed that it was two actors playing the roles and not just Lie Kass; so different does he make the twins from one another.

One of the most versatile actors of his generation- if not of all time- Mikkelsen once again impresses here as the neurotic, slightly seedy and thoroughly strange Svend. He is an actor without pretension and of great sagacity and ability, one who transforms himself completely for roles, and always convinces. In 'The Green Butchers' he plays the arrogant but introverted character expertly, coming across as utterly believable, somewhat pitiful and oddly sympathetic. It is a role few could pull off as effortlessly as Mikkelsen; nor could many make it as affecting or as entertaining.

In short, Anders Thomas Jensen's 'The Green Butchers' is a fine, funny and dark comedy that has a lot to offer viewers. Boasting a sharp screenplay full of witty, amusing dialogue and offbeat sequences, the film rockets along at a steady pace, providing many laughs along the way. Featuring two terrific central performances from Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas, strong visuals from Sebastian Blenkov and an emotive Jeppe Kaas score; 'The Green Butchers' is a marvelous movie about mystery meats, murders and marinades that will leave viewers hungry for more.


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