Butterfly and Sword by Michael Mak (Review)

I think there was a period of 20 – 30 minutes where my mind shut down, most likely due to some sort of built-in self-defense mechanism.
Butterfly and Sword

You’ve got to hand it to Hong Kong cinema… they know how to kill people. Hollywood is seriously lacking in this department; all we ever use are big guns and mean thugs. Oh sure, you’ll get a novel death every so often, but more often than not, they stick with the tried and true. Not so with Hong Kong cinema, and Butterfly and Sword is a perfect example. Within the first 5 minutes, you see a man’s face sliced off by a flying assassin, soldiers torn in half by a flying swordsman who launches himself through the air like a human arrow, and a man’s head ripped off with a robe’s sleeve.

But nothing compares to the final battle. Oh sure, the final battle is always where everything fecal hits the fan. But again, that’s doubly so with Butterfly and Sword. You get a eunuch wielding a claw-like device that would make Wolverine feel inadequate, more human arrow action, a man able to turn his opponents into human pincushions (complete with tiny geysers of blood), and my favorite, soccer ball kung fu capable of crushing human skulls.

And think of what I left out from the rest of the movie. You get a fight in a bamboo forest that puts the one in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to shame. Yeah, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had Zhang Zi-Yi, but I bet you didn’t see anyone get impaled on bamboo stalks with their own swords. There’s Michelle Yeoh’s character, who can turn her clothing into deadly weapons à la the monk’s attack in Iron Monkey. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the headless corpse that keeps fighting, despite being, well, a headless corpse.

I bet you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all of those ideas. Well, that’s nothing compared to actually seeing it take place in front of your eyes. And I’m pretty sure there’s a lot that I missed. I’m not sure, but I think there was a period of 20 – 30 minutes where my mind shut down, most likely due to some sort of built-in self-defense mechanism. Any plot or character development gets buried alive underneath all of the action and dizzy editing (which, I assume, was done with help of copious amounts of crack). And the fact that the subtitles ran by at about warp factor 5 didn’t help too much, either. From the few subtitles I was able to read, and with the help of brief synopsis on the DVD, this is what I gathered.

The “Happy Forest” martial arts school has been asked by Eunuch Tsao to destroy his rival, Eunuch Li, and his school, “Elite Villas.” “Happy Forest” is led by Sister Ko (Yeoh), who sends Meng Sing Wan (Leung) to infiltrate “Elite Villas.” This doesn’t sit well with Butterfly, Sing’s beloved. Meanwhile, Wan’s brother, Yip Cheung (Yen) loves Sister Ko, but Sister Ko loves Wan. While infiltrating Elite Villas, Wan finds his longlost sister, Ho Ching, who has infiltrated Elite Villas as its leader’s concubine. When Wan finds evidence of Elite Villas’ conspiracy, Yip, Ko, and Wan utilize those creative killing methods that I mentioned earlier and deal with Elite Villas. However, they soon have to deal with treachery from within, as well as their romantic triangle.

Sound confusing? Probably. But whatever it was that you just read makes a whole lot more sense than whatever it was that I just watched.

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