Film: Video watch - Butcher Boy carves a black niche

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The Butcher Boy (18)

Neil Jordan and Patrick McCabe collaborated on the screenplay of McCabe's novel and the director's profanity is well matched by the writer's cheerfully black take on rough-and-ready childhood in early Sixties' Ireland. Francy Brady, son of a boozy father (Stephen Rea) and a flaky mother, prefers not to dwell on his shambolic home life. Why should he, when he can borrow from the lurid TV tales of aliens, communists and atomic bombs to dramatise his existence?

He terrifies the local curtain-twitcher, Mrs Nugent (Fiona Shaw), and is only curbed in the worst excesses of his violence towards her by his best friend, Joe. You can't help but warm to the ebullient blarney with which he carries his misdeeds off, however. Young Francy's aided and abetted by the Virgin Mary (an appealing cameo by Sinead O'Connor ) and a fertile imagination with which Jordan fleshes out the film's more fantastic elements (post-apocalyptic dream sequences, bug-headed Priests and the like). Even when Francy more than earns the right to his nickname, Jordan keeps proceedings on an amoral keel, refusing to let the horror of Francy's final act as a child tip the film into sentiment.

The Boxer (18)

There's actually two films ducking it out in Jim Sheridan's solidly-made, worthy `Troubles' drama, both of which are punching above their weight. In the less gripping of the two, Daniel Day-Lewis is a former boxer, returning from prison to his local Belfast community to resurrect both his own career and that of his alcoholic former trainer, and to provide a new focus for the local children in post-cease-fire Ulster in the form of a gym.

The more kinetic narrative though has the same man reluctant once again to involve himself with the Republican paramilitaries, association with whom brought his 15-year jail sentence. Day-Lewis's love for a prisoner's wife, Emily Watson, embroils him in the murderous insider politics of the paramilitaries.

As with In The Name Of The Father, Sheridan seems more comfortable with a good story than the political nuances that lend the film its topicality. Even on this count, though, the central parallel between the prescribed violence of the boxing ring and the vicious sectarian variety fails to seize the imagination. Enjoy it instead for some excellent performances from all the principals and the relentless pace that is Sheridan's trademark.

The Postman

(TBC)

Or `Deliverance Through Deliveries'. How come Kevin Costner always gets to survive the Apocalypse? Someone must have slipped him some water wings as the floods lapped around the space where his chin ought to be in Waterworld and here he is again, moping around with a mule in the aftermath of some nasty technological breakdown.

Swathes of middle America have been taken over by a loopy general inspired by the work of a long-deceased motivational speaker ("I used to be photocopier salesman"). Conscripted into this crew of vicious office workers, Costner escapes and, after a night hiding in a mail van, is inspired to pop round with the post after a 20- year break in services. Quite why Kevin Costner thinks that he makes a credible action hero following Waterworld is probably a question best answered by those who keep on giving him money to make these interminable (The Postman will consume three hours of your precious time) vanity projects. Return to sender.

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