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kL½ (1968)
Black Butterfly

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/22/2005

Lo Wei stars and directs in this fairly entertaining period piece that has Chiao Chiao playing the Robin Hood-esque "Black Butterfly", who steals from the rich men in town to help out disaster victims. The local magistrate sets out to capture Black Butterfly, but her skills allow her to escape every arrest attempt. Things become more complicated when a band of thieves steal a local treasure and threaten to kill everyone in town.

Like most of Lo Wei's other Shaw Brothers work, The Black Butterfly is a solid film -- but not outstanding in any way. The plot is suitably different from most other kung fu movies to set it apart, but Lo's meandering style nearly kills the momentum. There's just too many throwaway scenes. Even though the film runs about 105 minutes, it feels longer than that. Things aren't helped by the acting, which is average at best. Chiao Chiao isn't given enough time to really develop the Black Butterfly, and most of the other characters come off like copies of similar ones present in so many other kung fu movies (the headstrong young fighter, the wise old drunken sifu, etc.).

However, The Black Butterfly does deliver a good amount of action. Since this film was made while Chinese opera dominated how action scenes were co-ordinated and shot, most of the stuff here will probably come off as too "showy" or "floaty" for audiences weaned on action pictures like The Matrix. But fans of old-school Shaw Brothers kung fu fighting will find at least a little something here that they should enjoy. Even though there's a disturbing lack of blood and some of the wire effects look cheap, the fights here are good enough to make The Black Butterfly mildly recommended viewing for the diehard old-school and Shaw Brothers buffs out there.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]