THE FILM 3.5/5
“All writing is sacrifice.”
Antonio Banderas (Desperado), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Mission: Impossible III), and Piper Perabo (The Prestige) highlight this riveting adaptation of an acclaimed French thriller. As a serial killer’s latest slaying shakes up a remote Colorado town, desperate writer Paul (Banderas) offers drifter Jack (Meyers) shelter at his isolated cabin. Does Jack’s violent behavior make him a suspect in the murders menacing the area? Or is the killer’s story even more terrifying?
Black Butterfly is comprised of two non-equal halves, each which – if expanded – could create its own reasonably intriguing film. Or – ironically, being that the main character is a tortured novelist – it might also display a bit better as a novel, allowing its plot additional layers, and allowing its more convenient details to play out a little less ham-fistedly. What begins as your more typical psychological thriller where one character has the upper hand in an almost superhuman style soon transforms into something else – something that’s clever and unique enough to allow Black Butterfly to stand off from the pack, but also something that seems to dramatically change its tone and tenor.
What helps mosey Black Butterfly along on its traditional path before ending up on one less traveled are the performances from its lead actors, both in unfamiliar territory but with none of the hesitation. Banderas is especially excellent, presenting his Paolo as meek but not yet broken – someone used to going through life with his head down and not wanting to attract attention to himself. Banderas has been gone from the lead-role limelight for some time, and after his enthusiastic turn in the otherwise inexorable Expendables 3, it’s a delight to see him commanding a lead role again, even if his performance is far greater than what the film deserves.
Rhys Meyers, meanwhile, is grappling with two roles – one villainous and another of a different sort. Kind of a vanilla actor up to this point, Rhys Meyers brings an admittedly unexpected sinister quality to his performance. As the two men “befriend” each other, Rhys Meyers pulls it back, not allowing that kind of bond to settle into place between them. This kind of back-and-forth dichotomy keeps his secret in check while never allowing to let the audience grow complacent. Their chemistry is one of the strongest aspects to Black Butterfly, but isn’t enough to save it.
The conflict in Black Butterfly resolves in a series of twists, the first couple of which are clever, but the final of which is an eye-roll of a move that’s been plaguing the visual medium for at least the last 100 years. (No, no one’s been dead the whole time, but you’re not that far off, either.) During its running time, it’s engaging and especially well acted, and the relationship between the men help to foster the audience’s want in seeing how the conflict will play out. By the time the first major twist reveals itself, the film basically shrugs, not allowing enough time for the twist to settle in and take hold.
THE PICTURE 4/5
Black Butterfly‘s video presentation is a fairly standard image, offering reasonably good colors, clarity of detail, and stability. Green and brown dominate, if you couldn’t tell from the included screen grabs, being that nearly the entire film takes place at Paulo’s isolated getaway. It’s always attractive to look at, whether in the rustic exteriors or in Paolo’s super-sized cabin.
THE SOUND 4/5
Black Butterfly is driven mostly by dialogue, utilizing only a handful of impact during certain key moments. Said dialogue is presented clean and clear, with the occasional line here and there not quite landing because of Banderas’ accent. Beyond that, there isn’t really anything of concern to note.
THE SUPPLEMENTS 2/5
I hate to say it, but both supplements included on this release don’t bring real context to the making of the film. The behind-the-scenes featurette runs a brief nine minutes and features only the typically brief and broad discussions on the film and those involved. Director Brian Goodman couldn’t seem less enthusiastic about anything during his interview segments; morbidly, the featurette is worth watching for that reason alone. Likewise, the commentary with Goodman and co-writer Marc Frydman could stand for a bit more energy. Very long pauses in between comments, most being anecdotal or observational in nature.
The complete list of special features is as follows:
- Commentary with Director Brian Goodman and Co-Writer Marc Frydman
- “Black Butterfly: Backstage” Featurette
Black Butterfly is very okay, and certainly worth seeing for the pair of lead performances, especially that of Antonio Banderas. It takes a well-worn concept and tries to do something a little new, but it’s not quite the success it could have been. The Blu-ray presentation hovers somewhere near above average. The PQ and AQ are fine, but the supplements lack punch, content, or enthusiasm. Rent this one first.
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