Black Butterfly (HK 1990)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/21/19
Cast: Wen Tzui Pin

A Hong Kong gangster named Wu tries to muscle his way into Taiwan and set up business there. He brings an assassin named Cheng (Wen Tzui Pin) and a professional gambler named Lin with him, and the ladies end up sharing a villa and becoming friends. Things get complicated when Wu orders Cheng to kill Lin, which challenges her ethics and tests her loyalty. There's also an annoying reporter named Nung who constantly follows Cheng around and desperately wants to be her friend, as well as a possible love triangle between Cheng, Lin, and a handsome young man named Jay. The film builds up to a long and boring card game between Wu and his Taiwanese rival, which is punctuated by so many twists and betrayals that it's impossible to reconcile what's going on. The downbeat ending ensures that no one lives happily ever after.

The film was clearly inspired by "The Killer" (1989) and "God Of Gamblers" (1989), but you can't compare it to either of them. Wen Tzui Pin is extremely pretty and makes a wonderful assassin. She has a penetrating gaze and wears a constant expression of disdain and disinterest, but behind her ice-cold personality is a lonely and vulnerable woman with a tragic past. You only see her tough exterior break down once, which happens unexpectedly and reveals how psychologically frail she really is. Unfortunately, she's not a good action actress and her fight scenes are disappointingly weak and unrefined.

Overall, the action is uninteresting, and the opening assassination sequence is laughably inept. Only two action scenes are worth noting, which are a spirited kung fu fight in a casino and a completely ridiculous and over-the-top gun fight at a warehouse. The production values are good for what seems like a moderate budget, although the narrative is disjointed and often difficult to follow. The hard-to-read subtitles certainly don't help in that regard. It's not a bad film by any means, but female action fans may be disappointed by its lack of bite.