Black Butterfly, a remake of the 2008 French film, seems to draw heavily on other films about writers in thriller and horror situations. Most obvious are the comparisons to Misery and The Shining, down to the shared names of the lead characters in those films and in this one. Overall the movie has much to recommend it, in theory, but little to distinguish it. The basic concept is fairly similar to Misery, in that a once-popular writer is held hostage (though not by a fan in this case).
The hostage taker this time is the drifter, Jack (played by Johnathan Rhys Meyers) who saves the writer Paul (played by Antonio Banderas) from being beaten up in a diner. He is later picked up on the side of the road by Paul. After reading Paul’s latest work, Jack and Paul come to an “agreement” where Jack helps Paul out of his writer’s block. The film attempts to make points about storytelling and the craftwork for creating believable works. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue about storytelling seems to be little more than “write from experience” with Jack threatening Paul with a knife to make his writing more realistic.
Write from experience might have been a good idea for the screenwriters to stick to since the film itself suffers from attempting to take the viewers on an unnecessarily complex series of twists. The film also suffers from moments where credibility is stretched. The entire sequence of motion is set into play by Jack saving Paul from a fight with a truck driver. This fight was entirely set up by chance and it seems unlikely the final scenes, with all the implications, would have been set into motion by luck.
Furthermore, in the sense of menace around the small town, with reports of murders throws the aura of fear around so much that it seems unlikely anyone would pick up a stranger. Jack, as played by Rhys Meyers, is unnerving enough from the outset that the fact that someone would pick him up and offer to house him, even for a day, stretches belief. With him then in the house, why he lets him stay and doesn’t pick up on the warning signs of clearly sinister intentions seems even less believable.
With that being said, both the performances of Banderas and Rhys Meyers are what drive the film which at times seems to be a double protagonist play in the style of Harold Pinter. Their engaging performances, more than the writing (which is rare for a thriller) are what capture the attention and retain it.
The problem with the final scene is that it stretches credibility and insults the intelligence of the viewer. Without this small scene, the film still has occasional issues but is mostly engaging and definitely entertaining. The twist before the final twist is not exactly great but it sits well enough. It is the final twist that pushes the boundaries of belief one step too far. With this kind of film, there is little new material to work with and it is no surprise that writers try too hard to make things seem fresh. They did not succeed in this time.