Butterfly Sword


Director: Michael Mak Dong-kit

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Butterfly & SwordKnowing beforehand that serious martial arts epics are rare, but kitschy flying-swordfighters spinning around in incomprehensibly ridiculous storylines are common as maggots in an elephant's corpse, I have learned to enjoy many of these films for their lesser qualities since frequently lesser ones are all there are.

When there is colorful action & swordswomen no less exciting than the swordsmen, I usually like them despite that they're such sillyass films.

But the kitsch level of Butterfly Sword aka Butterfly & Sword (Xin liu xing hu die jian, 1993) was jacked up too high. The plot (if it qualifies as a plot) is too randomly dashed together in a nonsensical order. The story involves Ming dynasty loyalists vs revolutionaries, & many a betrayal, but there is nothing evocative or meaningful in any of it; it's mere excuse for costumed fight scenes.

Butterfly & SwordThe "good" thing about there being little or no chance of making sense of the story is that it doesn't matter whether or not you keep up with the rapid-fire subtitles, because nobody is saying anything of any consequence even though they are jabbering away at ninety miles a minute.

Even if embraced as the cartoony actioner that it intentially is, the editing was done with a hasty lack of concern for continuity, timing & effect, as no one of the technical staff cared about anything but the deadline.

For me it was such an appalling bore that it induced me to stop watching Hong Kong movies for several weeks, for fear of wasting too many hours on stuff that is sub-par even for mindless goofery.

Even as non-stop nonsense action, by my measure Butterfly Sword is second-rate, because it requires fast-edits, whereas good kung-fu action does not do so many cuts & angle-changes such as are usually done to overcome certain stars' inability to do action scenes well, or to disguise the insertion of stunt-doubles.

Butterfly & SwordBut many viewers are not looking to be submerged in an historical world, & simply love kitschy wire-fu Hong Kong superheroes.

Such a viewer will find this gaudy epic enjoyably action-packed with a gorgeous leading lady (Michelle Yeoh) & boys with pretty hairdos (Tony Leung & Donnie Yen).

As an odd aside, the copies of this film floating about with the "And" missing from the title are the ones that are incorrect. It should definitely have been Butterfly & Sword, since it is about two characters, & is not about fighting with butterfly-swords.

As a further note, Michelle Yeoh's version of Butterfly & Sword is actually a loose remake of Chor Yuen's Killer Clans (Liu xing hu die jian, 1976) with Cheng Lee in the swordswoman role & Cheng Wa as the hero. As is often the case with remade films, the original is better.

And one final warning: Butterfly & Sword is juvenile in execution but not necessarily family-friendly, unless parents have decided exposure to blood & gore is okay, as this is surprisingly brutal as campy wuxia goes. Even for the Hong Kong audience its excesses had to be toned down (& gory even in the censored HK version). Most DVD versions are the violence-censored one from HK, & hard-core wuxia fans will want the Taiwanese release which was retitled Comet, Butterfly, & Sword having the censored portions intact.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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