Review: The Butcher, The Chef, and the Swordsman

The Story

A butcher, a swordsman, and a chef.  Each with a unique tale.  All centered around a lump of iron?

All Mixed Up

The ButcherIf you’re considering watching this film solely based on its title, be warned.  First and foremost, this is a comedy.  Mostly of the dark variety, but occasionally toying with the wacky (and at times juvenile) variation.  The trailers have been pretty good about showing the comedic slant to the storytelling, but some audience members may be coming in on this cold and might be expecting a more straightforward kung-fu brawler.  This isn’t that.

There is quite a bit of action in this film though, but nothing that leaves a lasting impression.  I’m loathe to recall a single sequence, though it’s only been a few weeks since I saw this.  What’s on display is fun while it lasts though so, you won’t be thinking ill of your time spent.

The plot, like the action, is fairly average.  Some might even say a little sub-par.  We follow three characters each representing the past, present, and future interaction with a fabled lump of iron.  The iron exists as a cleaver and was fashioned from the weapons of expert fighters.  It’s cursed for anyone that tries to use it for a negative purpose and of course quite predictably, each of our characters does exactly that.

First of our protagonists is the swordsman.  His father is the reason the iron exists. He fought the country’s greatest fighters and gathered their weapons together to fashion the ultimate weapon.  The son is dead set on owning the weapon for himself.  He wants to be the strongest swordsman ever and believes the iron will give him the upper hand. We join him in his story just as he’s about to find his object of desire.  Things aren’t quite as he expects.

Mysterious Courtesan (The Butcher)Next we have the chef, a young man out for revenge.  His father was a well renowned cook, frequented by the rich and famous.  One particular visit didn’t end well.  The boy, now an orphan and grown up, is out to set things right.  Again he believes that the iron will give him the edge he needs to exact his recompense.

The final character is that of the butcher.  A lovesick oaf who’s convinced he’s found his true love.  She’s a high priced courtesan while on his way home one fateful evening.  He’s got his work cut out for himself though as his competition is one very scary, ruthless, badass.  Then our butcher discovers the cleaver.

The film jumps back and forth between these three separate stories, with minimal interaction.  Not normally a big issue, but this movie makes it harder for itself by giving each of the stories such distinct tones.  The swordsman story is brutal, dark, and without the hint of  a smile.  The butcher story is colorful, slapstick, with a heavy portion of melodrama.  The chef’s story isn’t quite sure where it wants to be…and the result from all of this is a patchwork of feelings and emotions that betray each other and the audience.

The Moral of the Story

It’s always a tough thing to see a film like this where so much was done to quality.  As you can see from the stills, the film is beautiful to look at.  Great costume work.  Made to look even better by the well handled cinematography on display.  Beautiful sets, as well.  A very visually rich production.

The casting, which can never be given too high of an importance, is also quite well handled.  Lots of familiar faces, for those of us who see a healthy number of eastern films each year.  Many of them highly competent actors doing their best to flesh out their characters.

That’s ultimately the problem though.  Story is lacking.  Great actors and great production values can only take you so far. Without the meat that is story and plot, the rest just can’t hang together.  Not in any lasting way.

Unfortunately, this picture needed a bit more time in the oven.  As it is, it’s a little rare.


C grade for Story and Plot

B- grade for Action and Fight Choreography

C- grade for Comedic Situations

Overall grade of C


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