Director: Kim Hyun-sung
Cast: Kim Min-jung, Kim Jung-eun, Lee Moon-shik, Lee Jong-won, Tokko Yeong-jae
As a tear-jerking romance movie, the title Mr. Butterfly and the promotional posters don't seem to provide too much clue for the audience to expect what the story is about. Perhaps it is because of this instigation of curiosity, this film was well received at the box office in Korea, despite its mediocre quality.
Min-jae (Kim Min-jong) and Eun-ji (Kim Jung-eun) were two innocent villagers. One day, Min-jae decided to start his career in the city, and so he left Eun-ji. Five years later, Min-jae becomes a gangster, while Eun-ji ends up being the mistress of General Hur (Tokko Yeong-jae). The two of them reunite by accident in the city and their relationship is soon rekindled. When Hur knows that Eun-ji is cheating on him, he is enraged and uses his power to detain Min-jae. He then throws Min-jae into a rehabilitation camp and orders his men to torture him in different ways...
Although the story is set in the 1980s, this hackneyed love tragedy looks more like some kind of soap opera from the fedual period in anicent China than the contemporary world. The characters are unbelievably monotonous and typical. The military general is the suppressor throughout the movie. He is always powerful and he can do whatever he wants; While the protagonist belongs to the group being overpowered, there is simply no way for him to fight back at all. You cannot see any hope from this character. It seems that the filmmaker didn't show any sympathy for his characters and was trying too hard to push them into despair again and again. The tragedies are just so forced and artificial. If you are looking for some serious tear-jerking melodrama, this is definitely your cup of tea.
If the characters can stay calm and use their brains to think, a lot of the tragedies should not have happened. For instance, Eun-ji is too ignorant to trust Hur and becomes his mistress; Min-jae is also too careless when he is hiding in Hur's mansion... In short, All the misfortunes of the characters are almost, with no exception, their own fault. Since the characters always choose the wrong turn and make brainless decision, their irrational behaviors just don't carry any emotional power to move the audience.
In terms of the technical aspect, which is always the strong point of Korean cinema, this film is not disappointing as expected. The melancholic soundtrack and the sepia cinematography are a good mix that greatly enhances the desperate atmosphere. Actor-wise, lead male Kim Min-jong is an all-round talent in Korea. Not only is he a movie actor, he also shares an equally successful singing and TV acting career. However, his performance in this film isn't too outstanding as compared to Kim Jung-eun and supporting actor Lee Jong-won. Kim Jung-eun is famous of his comedy roles in A Funny Movie and Marrying the Mafia. Mr. butterfly is her debut in a pure romance movie and her persuasive portrayal of Eun-ji proves to the audience that she has a much wider range than expected. Lee Jong-won (Ardor)'s character is full of internal struggles, making him way more eye-catching and impressive than anyone else in the film.
The DVD of Mr. Butterfly is much better than the film itself. the picture and sound qualities are decent and the special edition also comes with a booklet that contains stills and production notes of the film. However, if you don't read Korean, there is no way you can understand what the text is about.
Reviewed by: Kantorates