Cinematic Releases: Black Butterfly (2017) - Reviewed

When a series of abductions grapples a rural town, a mystery including a reclusive writer and a violent ex-con ensues. Antonio Banderas and a strangely gaunt Jonathan Rhys-Meyers star in the Stephen King-esque thriller, Black Butterfly. This is a meta power struggle film that utilizes the two stars to their potential while only briefly touching on what could have been a far greater offering from all involved. 

Borrowing heavily from King's Misery and the 1982 Michael Caine/Christopher Reeve Deathtrap, this close quartered mental match-up has some excellent moments that are altogether hindered by too many twists and turns that feel neutered or without real cause. Under the strain of a lack of originality, character actor Brian Goodman transitions to a directorial spot but has a hard time getting the plot comparisons under control. His second attempt at fronting a dramatic film is never quite as good as his premiere, 2008's What Doesn't Kill You. With Black Butterfly, he definitely draws noteworthy roles from both, but just can't get Piper Perabo to stop mumbling her few lines as Banderas is notably uncomfortable through much of the movie. 

Using two great performances from the two male leads, Black Butterfly serves the purpose of letting them both try something new with their faltering careers, but ultimately stutters under the weight of a script ripe with similarities to other movies we've seen before. Centered on an author that comes across a violent drifter, the two become entangled in a web of violence and death. When Paul (who even shares the name of James Caan in Misery) is trapped by Rhys-Meyers, he must find a way to escape imprisonment as his captor becomes more and more aggressive. Gunplay and beatings ensue. Banderas quickly becomes unwound. Some of the interplay between the two is definitely tense, but again the usage of King tropes continues to drag the film down residually. 

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Banderas is stuck in a strange place right now that he so desperately wants to escape. You can feel it in his performance. And Rhys-Meyers is still rebounding from a few bad years. Both actors seem to be trying very hard to find some semblance of their former glory. Jonathan is attempting to get some of that Match Point tensive flair back. And Banderas is pushing himself to carry an entire film as the main star again. Perhaps the best things about this movie are the attentiveness to remedying a drab story with two talented actors and the mystifying coolness of a setting that sometimes calls back to the haziness of Christopher Nolan's Insomnia remake. 

As with any project, there are good and bad things about this effort. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives which in turn makes this a minimalistic bit of entertainment. If you're thinking about checking it out, I'd say see it but go in knowing you've seen this one before.