Review: Butterfly & Sword (1993)

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen, Jimmy Lin, Elvis Tsui, Joey Wong

Fight Choreography by Ching Siu-Tung

Directed By Michael Mak

When Butterfly Sword went into production, Michelle Yeoh was an international superstar, Tony Leung was hot off of John Woo’s Hard Boiled, and Donnie Yen was becoming a star after his performance in OUATIC 2, so any film that puts them all together has to be good, right?


Butterfly & Sword takes place in ancient China and centers around a war between a group of killers known as the Assassins of Happy Forest, led by Lady Ko (Yeoh) and her two friends, Meng Sing Wan (Leung) and Yip Cheung (Yen), and their war is with Lord Suen for control…of the martial arts world, which is a good way of saying the writers couldn’t come up with something better. The story mainly centers around Meng Sing, who is married to Butterfly (Wong), whose father was a great martial artist who wanted to make sure she never involved herself in martial arts, and she is unaware of Meng Sing’s double life as an assassin. Drama also exists among the three assassins as Yip Cheung is in love with Lady Ko, but she doesn’t love him, rather, she loves Meng Sing, and of course Meng Sing loves Butterfly. Things get complicated when Lady Ko accepts a mission from Eunuch Tsao to spy on Lord Suen and reveal his treachery. The mission forces the three to reveal their true feelings, but Lady Ko’s ambitions threaten to destroy them all, Butterfly included…

Where this film truly falls flat is with the characters and the storytelling. The primary problems with the Assassins is that none of them outside of Tony Leung are likable. Donnie Yen is kind of a puss, and Michelle Yeoh just comes off like… a trifflin’ bitch. Completely unlikable, and we also don’t get enough time to know the characters. We just get a cliff notes version, which doesn’t really inform us of why some of them take the actions that they do. The story here is what burns me to no end, and in particular it’s in regards to the final act of the film.  In fact what’s so infuriating about it is that a moment/reveal occurs that could have happened earlier in the film that would have SOLVED THE WHOLE DAMN PROBLEM. One of the characters in the film knew what was going on, and was so powerful he beats the bad guy in like five seconds, while the heroes were getting their asses kicked for five minutes and going through fight after fight. It was an overly convenient way to end the film, as if the writers ran out of ideas and needed a fast way to get the villain defeated. Not only that, but the main villain does something so impossible that it brought me right out of the film, and I couldn’t believe they had the gall to go there. Also, the film ends so abruptly it looked as if there was several minutes missing from the film.

The mostly wire assisted fights are decent, but not great, and border on the ridiculous, but the fights where everyone is fairly grounded is good, filled with fast movements an good choreography, and there are even some interesting deaths in the film, but none of the fights truly impressed me. Some of the edits of the fights were shoddy and occasionally didn’t make sense in regards to the movements we just saw. Too many edits ruin whatever good fights there were.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Butterfly & Sword is not a very well done film, even if the fights are okay. Audiences will have to wait until Hero to see Tony Leung and Donnie Yen in a good film together.

NEXT: Uma Thurman is out for revenge in Kill Bill Volume 1!

One comment

  1. This movie is on Netflix. I find a high sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in writing my thoughts and opinions about the movies that you review. I wonder if I could achieve any type of excellence in engaging in this kind of a thing. Anyway, I agree with your evaluation and assessment of this movie. The actors are very beautiful to watch, especially when they are young. Beautiful people can hold your gaze captive at times. Poor acting highly vexes my spirit. I just cannot bear to watch or listen to it. Many “Beautiful” individuals can be beautiful on the outside and low-down, dirty, and diabolical on the inside. I think I will stick with playing poker, pool and doing what I love to do (helping those less fortunate than myself.)


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