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The Butcher, The Chef
and The Swordsman
The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman     The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman

(left) Kitty Zhang, and (right) Masanobu Ando in The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman.
Chinese: 刀見笑
Year: 2010
Director: Wuershan
Producer: Daniel Yu Wai-Kwok, Tang Xiru
Writer: Wuershan, Zhang Jiajia, Ma Luoshan, Tang Que
Cast: Liu Xiaoye, Masanobu Ando, Ashton Xu, Kitty Zhang Yuqi, Han Pengyi, Mi Dan, Gao Lei, Ning Hao, Liu Hua, Xiong Xin-Xin, Yau Boon-Cheong, Dong Li-Fan
  The Skinny: Entertaining but also problematic costume comedy from mainland commercial director Wuershan. The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman should appeal to many genre fans but can be too garish, fast or exhausting for regular audiences (read: everyone else). Worth a look if you can take its overwhelming style.
by Kozo:
Fast and fun if exhausting and annoying, The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman is the rare Chinese film receiving a near day-and-date worldwide release. North America is getting the film at the same time as China, with Bourne Identity director Doug Liman's name attached as a “presenter,” and the move makes some sense. Genre movie fans who haunt film fests for odd foreign releases will likely cotton to Butcher's gonzo pacing, anachronistic gags and off-kilter sensibilities. The film feels like the sort of edgy and irreverent entertainment that might appeal to hip filmgoers – though actually, nothing here is really that edgy. In retrospect, Butcher is as empty as many of its characters' heads, with presentation and style being its ultimate raison d'etre.

Basically a story within a story within a story, The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman tells the tale of a blade composed of melted-down metal from legendary swords, and how it comes to affect the lives of its many owners. The multiple stories are cleverly wrapped in coils, each linking to the next with flashbacks and flashforwards, but generally speaking there are three stories here: the Swordsman (Ashton Xu) wants fame in jiang hu, the Chef (Masanobu Ando) wants vengeance for the murder of his father, and the Butcher (Liu Xiaoye) wants the attentions of comely courtesan Mei (Kitty Zhang). Each receives the blade (the latter two in the form of a cleaver), with fast-hitting, humorous and invariably frenetic results. Then the movie ends.

Story is hardly key here, and the film lacks the ideas, heart or characters to make it that memorable. The closest we get to an involving storyline is that of the Chef, whose quest for vengeance requires discipline and perseverance. The interplay between the Chef (played as a mute by the Japanese Ando) and his master (the diminutive, Yoda-like Mi Dan) is engaging, plus the film actually slows to a reasonable pace during this segment. That said, it's still given to garish, gloriously ugly production design, colors and costumes – no surprise there, as director Wuershan hails from commercials. His ability to make the ordinary look extraordinary is one that helps in 30-second snippets, but for a full-length feature it can be artificial and a bit overwhelming.

The big thing about Butcher is its style, composed of fast cuts, hyperactive camerawork, copious (and sometimes low-tech) CGI and a hip hop-flavored soundtrack. The style entertains in that ADD-addled MTV way, but the whole experience can alienate. The characters are unlikable and sometimes shrill, and the film never goes to truly unexpected places. Really, the only stuff here that throws the audience off-guard is the varying color or speed of subsequent shots. The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman is still a good match for those who like irreverent genre cinema, in that it takes a well-worn genre, throws it into a pop-culture spin cycle, and comes out looking funky and baroque. This is fast, excessive entertainment that can annoy – but if one has no issue with sensory overload, then it’ll likely entertain. But then you'll probably see something more substantial and then promptly forget all about it. (Kozo 2010)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
20th Century Fox
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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