Eric Roberts stars as an ex-prizefighter turned low level Mob enforcer nicknamed “The Butcher” who gets passed over for a promotion. The upstart boss-to-be doesn’t like The Butcher too much so when he steals millions from the Mob, he tries to pin it on him. He confronts The Butcher and goes to shoot him but The Butcher is way too fast on the draw and guns him down. The Butcher then gets to thinking that the money may be his only way out of a life of crime, so he takes the cash, straps on his gold-plated .45’s, and sets out to blow away anyone who gets in his way.
Roberts’ talent usually goes untapped in a lot of these Direct-to-DVD action flicks but he gives a really terrific performance here. I liked the little nuances in his character; like how he bought two dudes breakfast after he mistakenly beat the crap out of them. This is easily his best work since the criminally underrated D.O.A. In fact, the supporting cast is filled with a lot of great character actors who get an opportunity to flex their thespian chops. There’s Keith David as a bookie, Robert Davi as the mob boss, Geoffrey Lewis as a pawn shop owner, and Michael Ironside has a cool cameo too.
The Butcher is solidly entertaining for about an hour or so but it slowly begins losing it’s way as Roberts nears his inevitable revenge. He probably has one too many cases of should-I-or-shouldn’t-I make a run for it before it begins to bog the movie down. And while the final shootout is pretty gory (heads, hands, and arms get blown apart), the scenes that immediately precede and follow it are rather clunky. Whenever Roberts is given free reign to inhabit his character, The Butcher really works though.
Naturally, Roberts gets the best line of the movie when he tells a dude, “A word to the wise. Lay low for a few days. A word to the wiser; disappear!”
AKA: American Enemies. AKA: Gun for Hire. AKA: The Butcher: The New Scarface.