Merle “The Butcher” Hench (Eric Roberts) is an old school enforcer for the mob. Constantly in trouble with local bad guys for gambling debts, he lets off a young hoodlum who has crossed his boss, Murdoch. Murdoch, being a most unpleasant individual, suggests that Merle looks to retire, i.e. a thinly disguised threat to say it’s time for him to pack in being his stooge before he gets offed. Merle realises time is against him when a young upstart is promoted to head stooge over him.
Spending time at the local strip club, Merle is confronted by masked gunmen robbing the takings. Now these takings are slightly different than usual, since this is money being laundered for the mafia in Nevada. Shooting one of the gunmen, Merle realises his new rival is trying to impress Murdoch and stitch up the sleazy club owner Doyle as well as him. As he flees the club, Merle picks up a bag left by the robbers – which has nearly a million dollars in it.
Up to this point, not really a lot happens in The Butcher. We meet the characters, we witness their day to day goings on and at that point, I was very bored. Suddenly the film kicks into gear around the 40 minute mark and we are then treated to Roberts’ character killing and beating the crap out of various bad guys. The blood bags certainly get used by the make up department with Roberts using all kinds of weaponry to blast his way to freedom.
Aided by a waitress he has fallen for, Roberts travels downtown LA in search of the missing millions so he can safely ‘retire’. This all leads to a seriously violent shoot out with only one winner…..
The Butcher has a ‘B’-movie cast to die for. Roberts is a terrific actor if given good material and he plays the tired hitman well. In one scene, where he brandishes an old-fashioned machine gun, it reminded me of Charles Bronson in Death Wish 3 (probably the most violent and over the top film ever!).
Chief nasty Murdoch is portrayed by Robert (Licence to Kill / Maniac Cop 2 & 3) Davi clearly relishing his role and chomping on the scenery as much as his cigars. Great support is offered by Keith (The Thing) David, Bokeem (The Big Hit) Woodbine, Geoffrey (Every Way but Loose’s Orville) Lewis and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from badass god, Michael (Scanners) Ironside.
Although not the greatest film ever made and certainly not the worst, The Butcher is definitely worth a watch, as it has some good gun battles and a likeable leading character. It’s well worth setting the planner on your box to record it, sit back with a beer and a bag of crisps and enjoy a blood-soaked shoot ‘em up when you have a spare couple of hours going.