The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman seems to want to accomplish one thing, and one thing only: to entertain. I’ll admit that on some levels it can be entertaining, in a off-beat sort of way. This movie’s central plot seems to revolve around a specially made “cleaver”; which in turn is seen as a swordsman’s blade, a chef’s knife, and a butcher’s cleaver. As flimsy and uncouth as this story is, Wuershan tries to meld some humor and artistic flair; in order to spice things up. Does this improve the quality of this film? Well, I’ll give my opinion in a moment. First, here’s some information on the director of The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman: Wuershan.
Oddly enough, I was unable to find any biographical information about Wuershan. Even IMDB.com only seems to have his body of work, which will have to suffice. Anyway, the man has not put out (At least according to IMDB) many theatrical projects, aside from Soap Opera (2004) and The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman (2010). Wuershan did win an award for Soap Opera, snagging the FIPRESCI Prize for New Currents. Personally, the one thing about Mr. Wuershan’s style that sticks out, is the amount of flair he brings to The Butcher, the Chef, and The Swordsman. There was so much flash and comedic grit in stuffed into this picture to make me question whether or not I had really seen some of the onscreen silliness that occurs through this picture.
So whose is it? The Butcher, the Chef, or the Swordsman’s?
The look of this film seemed to imply it was a film about three men brought together by fate, in some climatic standoff/showdown/battle. Whether that battle was with swords, dance moves, insults, or sight gags; is still (even now) unclear to me. The three title characters are actually from different points in time; with all three having something to do with the creation, use, and abuse of the legendary “cleaver”. Without spoiling too much, I will say that the “chef” story in this picture was the most interesting. The fact that it’s narrative wasn’t muddled by wacky, music-video like rap songs or a loud obnoxious butcher didn’t hurt either. All three stories were of mediocre quality, and I felt like some scenes that would’ve helped string this picture together may have been cut in favor of more ‘comedic’ scenes. As a consequence, the only real coherent part of this story that I understood clearly, was this: The swordsman killed many men (and birds) in search of the ‘perfect weapon’, with his story ending ironically. Fine. The story about the mute ‘chef’ who must cook lavish dishes or be killed is interesting, but at times I wasn’t sure the motive of important characters in that story. Why is the mute chef also seeking revenge on a man who wasn’t even responsible for his family’s death? To take his cleaver? Really now? The butcher’s story is so grating, I hardly understood anything outside of the Butcher wanting to marry some beautiful, uninterested concumbine of a badass patron. By the end of that story, and the movie, I was so underwhelmed and happy to see the credits roll, I actually considered not writting a review for it. But that would defeat the purpose of my blog here. I write my opinion, whether my reaction to something was positive or negative I still want to discuss. Besides, with all the trash I watched blow around freely in this movie, there was admittingly some scenes that made me chuckle. That’s right, I remember chuckling when a scene is taken to diagram a replay of someone splitting a horse in half; sending the rider flying. Weird, right? That’s were this movie goes, as if it was a cartoon filmed through a live action camera. It’s a bouncy, goofy, gross slopped together movie looking to make you laugh, and retweet it’s one-lines. As of now, I have yet to recall a line funny enough for me to retweet, without wanting to immediately delete it afterward. Go figure.
Check out the trailer below: