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Film

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Apprenticed to a sadistic butcher, Svend and Bjarne want to escape their employer’s taunts and open their own shop. So Svend mortgages his house, while Bjarne decides to euthanize his brain-dead twin, Eigil, in order to collect their parents’ inheritance. (Eigil’s nurse is eager to donate her patient’s organs, anyway.) Thus, The Green Butchers begins promisingly as a black lampoon about victims in a small Danish town learning how to victimize. Mads Mikkelsen, as uncontrollable perspirer Svend, perfects a worried middle-distance gaze that suggests an improbably frightened Christopher Walken. His sub-Godot exchanges with laconic stoner Bjarne (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are predictable but funny, and the two leads capably humanize an overdetermined screenplay that often fumbles with bludgeoning symbolism and rank sentimentality. An accident in the freezer results, of course, in the sale of human fillets, marinated and dubbed “Svend’s Chicky-Wickies.” Compared, though, to anthrosausage classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Motel Hell, and Delicatessen, Butchers has little appetite for the darkest questions at the heart of its conceit. The satire bites firmly only in the middle half-hour, when rapacious queues assemble, and the titular losers anxiously embrace their miserable lives’ first success.

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