Combustible Celluloid
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Piper Perabo, Abel Ferrara
Written by: Marc Frydman, Justin Stanley
Directed by: Brian Goodman
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 93
Date: 05/26/2017

Black Butterfly (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Write and Left

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Thanks to strong, clever casting, and a fine use of chilly, damp mountain locations, this "B"-level thriller packs enough of a punch, and has enough surprises up its sleeve, to make it worth a look.

In Black Butterfly, writer Paul (Antonio Banderas) lives in lonely house near a remote mountain town, where a person could easily go missing. He's behind on his bills, drinks too much, and can't seem to write anything. He tries to sell his house, but real estate agent Laura (Piper Perabo) isn't having any luck.

In a diner, a stranger saves Paul from a fight with an angry trucker, and Paul offers the stranger, Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a place to sleep for the night. Jack winds up staying on, helping out, and giving Paul ideas for a new screenplay. But Jack insists on realism. He begins to test Paul with increasing displays of violence, such as waking him up with a knife to the throat. How will this screenplay end?

Director Brian Goodman normally works as an actor, and he seems to have had a good instinct in his casting of Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The actors bring a fresh angle, a little something different, to familiar roles. (Piper Perabo is onscreen less, but is also delightful and effective in her scenes.)

The maverick film director Abel Ferrara also has a rare acting role as a shopkeeper.

Most of Black Butterfly — the title comes from a tattoo on one character's back — hinges on the way the two men interact with one another, and they create an effective electricity, slowly escalating the tension in their scenes. The vivid atmosphere, and the look and layout of the mountain cabin, are key as well.

The screenplay by Marc Frydman and Justin Stanley — based on a 2008, French-language movie — isn't entirely predictable, and contains a couple of interesting ideas. Even as it unleashes twist after twist, the tone remains minimalist, appealingly simple, rather than outrageous or ridiculous.

The Blu-ray release from Lionsgate comes with above average picture and sound, with bright, muted lighting to reflect the urban, outdoor setting. Director Brian Goodman and co-writer/producer Marc Frydman provide a sporadic commentary track, revealing a few little hidden secrets about the movie. There's an interesting 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and trailers for this and other Lionsgate features.

Movies Unlimtied