There's something impressive about Antonio Banderas (Desperado) when the actor can sell a performance like he does in Brian Goodman's Black Butterfly, a remake of a 2008 French thriller of the same name. Despite being saddled with the most godawful dialogue this side of Duloc.
Co-penned by Justin Stanley and Marc Frydman, Black Butterfly takes place just outside of a small mountain town grappling with a series of abductions and murders. Paul (Banderas) is a reclusive writer whose career is on the skids due to a prolonged case of writer's block. Determined to finish a screenplay to save his career, Paul gets into an unexpected encounter at a diner in town and his butt gets saved by Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a mysterious drifter sort whose vibe vacillates between "Stay Clear!" and "This guy's freaking nutso!" Of course, these kinds of psychological thrillers never act on anything resembling common sense so Paul offers Jack a place to stay and before we can even say "I told you so!" Jack has inserted himself into Paul's world and even his writing.
This ain't going to end well, ya know?
It doesn't end well. It doesn't really begin well either. In fact, I can't say a whole lot about the beginning, middle or the end. The truth is that while I can respect certain aspects of Black Butterfly, most notably Banderas's performance, I sat watching the film and about 1/3 of the way through it found myself looking at my watch, rolling my eyes and wishing it was all over. Unfortunately, it never really got better after that.
Black Butterfly constantly plays like a film that thinks it's much smarter than it really is. At several points, it felt like Jonathan Rhys Meyers was actually winking at us. Of course, that could have simply been the fact that his performance here is practically a textbook example of over-acting, over-emoting and just plain making sure the audience was over it before the film even hits the halfway mark. There's simply never a point where Rhys Meyers sells Jack as anything less than a creep, a fact that practically devastates everything that follows the character's introduction.
The film's big twist, which certainly won't be revealed here but even the film's marketing mentions a twist, is so completely and utterly absurd that it jars one's attention away from the film and there's nothing that unfolds in the film's final twenty minutes that ever draws you back.
Black Butterfly is the kind of film that us indie critics actually kind of resent because we see so many quality independent motion pictures that never get a chance to hit theaters that it's actually painful to watch a film like this one squander the opportunity.
By the time a storm cuts off power to the cabin, of course, and the final stage is set for a life-and-death conflict, Black Butterfly has been reduced to not much more than a laughably bad duel between two characters whose fate doesn't particularly matter.
If you're a diehard Banderas fan, there's enough for you here to enjoy. Otherwise, Black Butterfly is likely destined for a quick run through the arthouse theatre before a likely more successful life on home video where, in fact, you can already see it for yourself by clicking on the trailer above.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic