Highlighted with some nice swordplay and wire-fu as well as a complex love “rectangle”, this film from Michael Mak is a truly underrated Hong Kong action epic.
Sing Wan is one of the best sword masters in the Happy Forest martial arts clan. However, he has long wanted to leave the martial world to be at peace with the woman he loves, Butterfly. However, he cannot seem to shake off his skills due to the fact that fellow master Sister Ko always asks for his help, as she is also in love with him. When Eunuch Li asks Sing Wan and Sister Ko to find the evil warlord Suen Yuk-Pa to retrieve a document that could save the clan, Sing Wan intends to complete what will be his final mission.
The duo are joined by master swordsman Yip Cheung, who is secretly in love with Sister Ko. As Sing Wan must hide his true nature to Butterfly, who thinks he is just a common man, Sister Ko can’t help but constantly tell Sing how she feels and yet Butterfly learns that Yip Cheung has feelings for Sister Ko. Meanwhile, as Lord Suen unleashes his power, it is up to the trio of heroes to overcome their personal feelings for the sake of the clan as the Happy Forest’s fate rests on their shoulders.
Director Michael Mak would be known for his debut directorial film Dragon Force as well as taking over to direct two sequels to the heroic bloodshed film Long Arm of the Law and the hit Cat-III film Sex and Zen. His first foray into a full-blooded wuxia pian has a script from future producer John Chong that adds a sense of story along with its great wire-enhanced sword fights that brings a sense of complications between its core characters. This film is a loose remake of a 1976 Shaw Brothers film, Killer Clans, with its similar storyline but add to the mix the complicated matters of a “love rectangle”, and it all meshes well.
The film can be said by today’s standards to have an ensemble cast including Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Donnie Yen, and Joey Wang. These four make up the “love rectangle” with Leung and Wang in love with each other and it shows their great chemistry. Yeoh is in love with Leung and even drops hints throughout the film about her feelings to Leung while Yen, in a very emotional scene involving writing a letter, confesses his love for Yeoh. It may feel at first that this love story may take away the essential of the trio of warriors having to get a letter from a vicious warlord, excellently played by Elvis Tsui. There’s also a young man who wanders around the clan, playing some sort of soccer game with kids, played by Taiwanese pop star Jimmy Lin who may be of importance in the film.
The legendary Tony Ching was in charge of the film’s action sequences and they are exciting to watch. IN the film’s opening action sequence, which Tony Leung takes on a group of bandits, he shoots his sword via a bow from behind his back, a very ingenious move. Yeoh and Yen have a nice kick-filled and sword fight in a forest against member of Suen’s clan, at times being very bloody. In another ingenious move, Yeoh and Leung become a “human bow and arrow” combination with Yeoh being the bow (thanks to her impeccable flexibility) and Leung the arrow who can wield his way through his opponent in true wuxia pian fashion. The finale has quite a twist that works out nicely in terms of action and thrills for this genre.
Butterfly and Sword is an underrated wuxia film that makes good use of its cast both on the acting and as well as the excellent action sequences for the genre. Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, and Donnie Yen shine with Joey Wang giving it her all in the role of Butterfly, Leung’s love whose love still holds true despite the complications with the trio.
WFG RATING: B
A Chang-Hong Channel Film and Video Ltd. Co. Production. Director: Michael Mak. Producer: Kevin Chu. Writer: John Chong. Cinematography: Chen Jung-Shu. Editing: Ma Chung-Yiu, Wong Jing-Cheung, and Mui Tung-Lit.
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen, Joey Wang, Elvis Tsui, Lee Wai, Chang Kuo-Chu, Jimmy Lin, Lee Wai, Chu Ben-Ke, Elsie Yeh, Tuo Tsung-Hua, Wong Chung-Kui.