This film cannot be categorized as a martial arts film. Unlike the recent released Iron Monkey, Butterfly Sword's action scenes are so chaotic and confusing that you cannot really tell whether a person is fighting a deadly opponent or is simply twisting in the air for fun. With body parts flying everywhere, you wonder if you are watching a horror film. It is not a fantasy film either. There obviously is no ghost or gods, and supposedly people in this film don't really possess supernatural powers. Therefore, the action scenes can only be said to be insulting to either genre.
Despite a strong cast and beautiful scenery, the movie ultimately disappoints. One saving grace for this film is Donnie Yen. Though his great talents were wasted in his fight scenes due to over-use of wires, poor camera work and disastrous editing, he managed to compensate by putting more heart and warmth into his character, the ever serious but sincere Yip, who is the only likable character in the film. Too bad we have not seen Donnie Yen as often as we see Jet Li or Jackie Chan. A much better actor than Jet Li and extremely gifted in martial arts, he exuberates a certain charisma that simply draws people to him, either in a major role or a supporting role. Michelle Yeoh on the other hand is marvelous. She conveys emotions just as effectively as she does swirls and kicks. The scene where she glides through the air between two bamboo trees is one of few good action scenes in the movie, but it perhaps is one of the most graceful and elegant scenes I have seen in any martial art films.
Two stars for Michelle and Donnie.