A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Black Butterfly is a thriller about a screenwriter and a drifter who come together in a tense, violent way. Scenes include threats, yelling, and fighting, with punching, kicking, and someone being throttled/choked. A knife is held to a character's throat, and guns are pointed. They're also fired, but only offscreen or away from people. Characters are held prisoner with duct tape and/or handcuffs, and a woman is treated roughly in a few scenes; her cries are heard from offscreen. Language is also strong, with several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and "a--hole." The main character appears to be an alcoholic. He tries to quit drinking, but the outcome is unclear, and there aren't any consequences. There's also some smoking.
What's the story?
In BLACK BUTTERFLY, screenwriter 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 wants to sell his house, but real estate agent Laura (Piper Perabo) isn't having any luck. Then, 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, so he starts to test Paul with increasing displays of violence, such as waking him up with a knife to the throat. How will this screenplay end?
Is it any good?
Thanks to smart casting and 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. Director Brian Goodman normally works as an actor, and he displays good actorly instincts in choosing Banderas and Meyers for his film. The two stars bring a fresh angle, a little something different, to familiar roles. (Perabo is on screen less, but she's also delightful and effective in her scenes.)
Most of Black Butterfly (the title comes from a tattoo on one character's back) hinges on the way that Jack and Paul 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 also key. The screenplay by Marc Frydman and Justin Stanley -- based on a 2008 French-language movie -- isn't entirely predictable, which is always a good thing. Even as it unleashes twist after twist, the film's tone remains minimalist and appealingly simple, rather than outrageous or ridiculous.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie depict the character's heavy drinking? Do you think he's an alcoholic? Does he try to quit? Does he succeed? What are the consequences of his actions? Does the movie glorify drinking in any way?
Did you enjoy the movie's twists? Did you see them coming, or were they surprising? What makes a good twist?
For kids who love thrills
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.