Black Butterfly

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Black Butterfly Movie Poster Image
Well-cast thriller entertains, despite violence, language.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No real messages here other than that some people are better at cat-and-mouse games than others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are hard drinkers, murderers, and violent psychopaths -- in other words, no role models to be found.

Violence

A woman disappears, possibly abducted. Guns are pointed at people and fired (but all shooting happens offscreen). Fighting, with kicking and punching. Knife to throat. Characters held prisoner and tied up with tape and/or handcuffs. A woman is treated roughly (offscreen); her screams and cries are heard. Threats and yelling.

Sex

A man asks a woman for a date.

Language

Several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character seems to be an alcoholic; he drinks hard liquor frequently at all hours of the day. He tries to quit, but it's unclear what the outcome is or what the consequences are. Also cigarette smoking.

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.

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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 ...

  • Families can talk about Black Butterfly's violence. How much is actually shown? Does the movie feel any more or less violent because of this? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • 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?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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