De Grønne slagtere
starring Line Kruse, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro
written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen
by Bill Chambers SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. There's nothing groundbreaking about Anders Thomas Jensen's blessedly non-Dogme The Green Butchers, the latest movie to mine the consumption of human flesh for laughs (even the title suggests a cheeky allusion to Soylent Green)--but for a comedy, that most culturally-specific of genres, the Danish production travels remarkably well. Credit a skillful subtitle translation that preserves the wit of Jensen's repartee, not to mention the chemistry between stars Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who, as chronic perspirer Svend and pothead Bjarne, respectively, transcend language like some nouveau Ren and Stimpy. (That being said, they're occasionally too redolent of Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro for this writer's comfort.) Proprietors of the new butcher shop in town, Svend and Bjarne face early foreclosure until an electrician accidentally freezes to death in their meat locker, inspiring a desperate Svend to turn the corpse's thigh into fillets he promptly dubs "chickie-wickies." These cutlets catch on with the locals, natch, and the desire to stay popular transforms Svend into a serial killer, with Bjarne acting as his reluctant but too-stuporous-to-resist accomplice.
In political terms, the movie seems refreshingly unorthodox, but considering the male-fantasy aspects of its denouement, this might be pure machismo. Jensen clearly disdains the PETA-style dogma espoused by the likes of Jessica Biel, who said while she was promoting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that violence against people doesn't bother her nearly as much as violence against animals (let's see her shout that from the rooftops of Rwanda), a privileged delusion that ranks right up there with Shannon Elizabeth buying up all that precious Ciprol during the Anthrax scare just in case her canine accessory ever got exposed. Not only does Jensen inhibit schadenfreude by making none of the homicides in The Green Butchers even remotely justifiable (confining our laughter to Svend's callousness and Bjarne's exasperation), but he also gives the avatar for animal activism, Bjarne's twin brother Eigil (also Kaas), a severe mental handicap, in addition to a backstory that finds him sacrificing almost his entire family--including Bjarne's wife--to save a deer.
Though the complete absolution of Svend and Bjarne is morally repugnant, the chef getting away clean is part and parcel of the lawless kick promised by cannibal comedies. Besides, The Green Butchers isn't a cautionary tale, but rather a nihilistic lesson in the importance of morale; punishing our two heroes with incarceration or the equivalent would simply be in a different kind of bad taste by letting rubbernecks off the hook. Ultimately, it's a weirdly mawkish bit of misogyny that demonstrates how unthreatening the lack of repercussions is by leaving the far more unpleasant aftertaste: Bjarne's harried gal pal Astrid (Line Kruse) joins a sun-dappled tableau with Bjarne, Svend, and Eigil, having apparently drawn the conclusion that life with two murderers (one of whom tried to off her) and a retarded manslaughterer is better than spinsterhood. In so doing, she becomes just another tasty-looking chickie-wickie. Originally published: February 18, 2005.