Maybe Europeans have a finer grasp on the occasionally sinister complexities and ironic humor of life or perhaps us Yanks just can't appreciate a great dark comedy - it seems that all of the really enjoyable biting satire comes from lands other than our own. A great case in point would be writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen's 2003 film The Green Butchers, which in the vein of cult classics Eating Raoul and Delicatessen traffics in the nauseating art of cannibalism.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen as Svend and Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Bjarne, The Green Butchers concerns two friends who decide to open their own butcher shop despite fierce competition and pressure from their unsavory former employer. With their backs to the wall, the pair concocts a "special dish" that suddenly attracts scads of customers - naturally they don't give away their secret recipe, which only increases traffic flow. But as Svend and Bjarne's business heats up, everyone - including the competition - becomes increasingly curious about the "special dish" and its mysterious ingredients.
For a film ostensibly about one of the more disgusting topics known to man, The Green Butchers is largely free of any gag-inducing moments and low on gore - Jensen seems more keen on developing character and letting the story play itself out that with mounting any big themes or shocking audiences with buckets of grueling imagery. While the resulting inoffensiveness guarantees that more will sit through his film, Jensen also robs the narrative of a sense of underlying horror. Sure, cannibalism is horrifying, but it's approached so offhandedly in The Green Butchers as to be almost an afterthought - while this is far from bad, it is surprising and those seeking a nasty black comedy should prepare themselves for a farce more on the order of grey.
The Green Butchers should nevertheless appeal to fans of the aforementioned dark comedies - it's a compact little film that delivers a few laughs and will entertain those who appreciate the more off-beat cinematic offerings.
Strangely enough, The Green Butchers is presented in a non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer which looks like a PAL-to-NTSC transfer. The image is serviceable, with a noticeable digital appearance and occasional softness. Nothing spectacular but no major flaws are apparent.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 stereo (both in the native Swedish) are onboard here and much like the visuals, there's nothing to write home about. Dialogue (with English subtitles) is crisp and clear and there isn't much surround activity. Smooth and clean, the audio track gets the job done.
No extras are included on the disc.
The Green Butchers is an easy recommendation for a rental for those who revel in dark comedies - Anders Thomas Jensen's film is quick, witty and while it doesn't aim to shock or nauseate with gore (although vegetarians would do well to skip this flick), it still entertains and makes for easy enjoyment. Rent it.