THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN - Unmitigated Torture
THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN (fantasy adventure in Mandarin)
Cast: Masanobu Ando, You Benchang, Ashton Xu, Kitty Zhang, Liu Xiaoye, Swanson Han,
Screenplay: Wuershan, Zhang Jiajia, Ma Luoshan, Tang Que (based on a short story by An Changhe)
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: Movie reviewers invited to previews usually see it as their job to sit through a movie, no matter how bad it is. However, during the media screening of this film, many reviewers walked out after 10 minutes. More walked out before half-an-hour into the screening. It could be because they do not understand the film as there were no subtitles at the screening, but I get the feeling that those who walked out knew a turkey when they saw one.
THE SKINNY: The plot is purportedly about a mystical blade which looks like a rusty chopping knife. As it passes through the hands of the titular characters with different motivations, it shapes their destinies. The Butcher (Liu Xiaoye, above) is a fat slob in love with a beautiful courtesan (Kitty Zhang, below), but is rebuffed each time he approaches her. The Chef (Masanobu Ando) is a handsome loner obsessed with seeking vengeance for the slaughter of his family. The Swordsman (Swanson Han), the son of a legendary warrior, is consumed by the desire to eclipse his father in both power and fame.
Their stories intertwine as each man takes possession of the mystical blade and discovers the power and the danger it brings.
HITS AND MISSES: I am sure there will be some smart alecs who will see this as a work of a genius but it was sheer torture sitting through this unholy trash, trying to figure out what is happening and why. The scenes are so devoid of logic and interest that the movie would make the eye-candy flick, Sucker Punch, look like a classic art flick of epic proportions. The actors are presumably selected for their weird circus side-show antics than for how well they can act. There are curious looking midgets in the cast and even one made up to look like Jabba The Hutt.
Director Wuershan, who used to shoot adverts, fails miserably at trying his hand on a feature film. He throws in all sorts of crazy, pop culture stuff and even the aria from Puccini's Tosca, in a bid to lend style (or a sense of art) to the scenes but it turns out to be more of a comedy - a tragicomedy. The few sequences that look good enough are those dealing with food.
THE LOWDOWN: A crude and infantile effort.