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The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman

If a clothes dryer could scream in Chinese, it would resemble this eagerly incoherent film.

With: Masanobu Ando, Kitty Zhang, You Benchang, Liu Xiaoye, Ashton Xu. (Mandarin dialogue)

If a clothes dryer could scream in Chinese, it would resemble the eagerly incoherent “The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman,” which probably only needs ” … His Wife and Her Lover” to achieve total incomprehensibility. Set in feudal-era China of grotesque extremes, Wuershan’s debut feature reps an inauspicious beginning for Fox’s foray into China, since even fanboys will be hard-pressed to engage with this quasi-martial-arts epic or even follow its ornate, overlapping plotlines. Of course, midnight screenings and some cultish enthusiasm are always possible.

That “The Butcher” is being “presented” by helmer Doug Liman is odd, because the film and its throw-it-all-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach is so antithetical to the kind of rhythmic, coherent action of Liman’s “The Bourne Identity.” There’s certainly a lot in “The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman” — jealousy, lust, revenge, a mythic kitchen implement, a grotesque, singing brothel owner, karaoke, animation, vintage kung fu clips and epic combat — but it’s all a rather messy, inedible stew. Auds in search of pure stimulus may respond, but basically, this food movie is out to lunch.

The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman

Hong Kong-China-U.S.

Production: A Fox Intl. Prods., Taihe Universal Film Investment Co., First Cuts Features, Union Voole Technology Co., Zixuxuanyang Cultural Development Co., Bolong Investment Co. presentation of a Fox Intl. Prods. (Greater China)/First Cuts Features production, in association with Zhongxunxincheng Advertising Co. and One Production Co. (International sales: Golden Network Asia, Hong Kong.) Produced by Daniel Yu, Tang Xiru. Executive producers, Tang Xiru, Shao Yiding, Yang Yang, Yao Jinlong, Wang Wei, Doug Liman. Directed by Wuershan. Screenplay, Zhang Jiajia, Tang Que, Ma Luoshan, Wu, based on the sort story "The Legend of the Kitchen Knife," by An Changhe.

Crew: Camera (color), Michal Tywoniuk; editor, Huang Zhe; music, Gong Geer, Dead J, Miquia; music supervisor, Miquia; production designer, Hao Yi; costume designer, Hao Yi. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 15, 2010. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Masanobu Ando, Kitty Zhang, You Benchang, Liu Xiaoye, Ashton Xu. (Mandarin dialogue)

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