The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman

Overview

Three stories of life in feudal China come together in this offbeat fusion of comedy, action, and food from first-time director Wuershan. Chopper Liu Xiaoye is a butcher who is stout, hirsute, and unrefined; however, when he sees Madame Mei Kitty Zhang Yuqi, a beautiful courtesan who works at an upscale bordello, he's stricken with love at first sight and is determined to win her hand and prove he's worthy. Under ideal circumstances, this would be a tall order for Chopper, but it just so happens Mei already has a...
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Overview

Three stories of life in feudal China come together in this offbeat fusion of comedy, action, and food from first-time director Wuershan. Chopper Liu Xiaoye is a butcher who is stout, hirsute, and unrefined; however, when he sees Madame Mei Kitty Zhang Yuqi, a beautiful courtesan who works at an upscale bordello, he's stricken with love at first sight and is determined to win her hand and prove he's worthy. Under ideal circumstances, this would be a tall order for Chopper, but it just so happens Mei already has a beau -- Big Beard, a master swordsman with a fearsome weapon and the deadly talent to use it. Meanwhile, a master chef Mi Dan is given a daunting assignment to prepare an eight-course dinner for Liu Xie Ning, who has a history of murdering cooks who don't live up to his standards. Rather than risk his life, the chef gives the assignment to his assistant, but it turns out the chef's underling has a secret. And Dugu Cheng Ashton Xu is a swordsman-turned-cook who has been given a very special cleaver made by Fat Tang You Benchang from the swords of five gifted warriors. Dugu Cheng transforms the cleaver back into a weapon, yet learns that its magical properties are not all they're cracked up to be. Dao Jian Xiao aka The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman received its North American premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.
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Special Features

Closed Caption
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
First-time director Wuershan mixes influences ranging from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Hero to Kung Fu Hustle to Kill Bill Vol. 1, and comes away with a mostly agreeable kung fu stew. However, the path to get there may cause some fits. It takes a good 20 minutes to get in step with Wuershan's choppy visual rhythms, and he begins The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman by concentrating on the least interesting third of the story, which features a classically defined "fool" character with highly grating mannerisms. To Wuershan's credit, by the time the last tale has finished unfolding, the director has gathered things together enough to produce a decent audience pleaser. The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman first introduces us to Chopper Liu Xiaoye, a peasant butcher who falls in love one night after a blow to the head knocks him unconscious. He awakens to see the image of Madam Mei Kitty Zhang Yuqi, a beautiful courtesan working in the local brothel. When he tries to meet her, though, the homely Chopper is laughed at by the other women and bullied by the local alpha male, Big Beard Senggerenqin. Ejected from the brothel into the rainy night, Chopper is contemplating ending it all when he meets a bedraggled stranger carrying a very special cleaver, carved from rough black iron. The stranger tells Chopper the story of how the cleaver was used in a restaurant famous for an elaborate eight-course meal that only one chef Mi Dan knows how to prepare. Getting on in years, that chef takes on an apprentice Masanobu Ando to teach his secrets to, including the impossible eighth course, in which he guts and serves a fish before the fish knows it's dead. Unbeknownst to his chef, the mute apprentice has a vengeful agenda against a prospective customer, the warlord who killed his family Xie Ning. The chef tells his apprentice the story of how he came into possession of the special cleaver, which was forged by the great swordsmith Fat Tang You Benchang. Fat Tang was approached by Dugu Cheng Ashton Xu, who wanted to be the greatest swordsman in the world, which inspired him to dig up a block of iron that had been buried with his father, himself a world-renowned warrior. That iron had been melted down from the swords of all the great swordsmen his father defeated, meaning any sword created from it would be the greatest sword ever made. However, since the swordsman's father melted the swords as a gesture of nonviolence, the fates may be against Cheng's violent ambitions. Wuershan is clearly interested in bringing the ancient storytelling traditions of his Chinese homeland into the modern age. While structuring his tale in a way that pays homage to that oral tradition, he also uses modern storytelling methods to speak to a contemporary audience. For example, one killing is dissected pun intended through the technique of showing it again on replay, like a sporting event. At another point, two warriors duel in the aesthetic of a Mortal Kombat-style video game. When Chopper is turned away by the cruel women of the brothel, it's fashioned after a hip-hop music video. Not all of these gimmicks work, and they are applied inconsistently. A more traditional cutaway that works better is an animated sequence evoking ancient Chinese art, in which the chef's apprentice describes the slaughtering of his family at the hands of the evil warlord. This serves the same function and is about as effective as the similar scene in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1. Of the three stories, the chef's is by far the most satisfying and visually delightful. The visuals benefit greatly from the preparation of the scrumptious-looking eight-course meal, its colorful vegetables and meats bursting off the screen, enhanced by Wuershan's quick edits and compelling use of split screen. This segment also has the best narrative structure, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The swordsman's story is interesting but all too brief, while the butcher's story has the opposite problem, going on too long, and introducing elements near the end that don't spring organically from the beginning. Not to mention that it features the clownish, over-the-top performance from Liu Xiaoye as Chopper. Buoyed by the crossover potential of executive producer Doug Liman, The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman seems poised to introduce the world to a new talent emerging from the Hong Kong scene. It may take until Wuershan's second or third film, though, before he assembles his perfect meal, without any sour spots.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/27/2011
  • UPC: 024543756149
  • Original Release: 2010
  • Rating:

  • Source: Fox Searchlight
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Wide Screen / Subtitled
  • Sound: Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound
  • Time: 1:32:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 63,772

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Masanobu Ando , The Mute
Kitty Zhang Yuqi , Madam Mei
You Benchang , Fat Tang
Liu Xiaoye , Chopper
Ashton Xu , Dugu Cheng, Dugu Cheng's Brother, Old Dugu
Swanson Han Chunge
Dong Lifan The House of a Thousand Flowers Manager
Gao Lei Flute Performer
Liu Xu Troupe Leader
Senggerenqin Big Beard
An Yuncheng The House of a Thousand Flowers Patron
Mi Dan Big Eight Chef
Xie Ning Eunuch Liu
Hou Xiang Little Melon
David Man Eunuch Liu's Aide
Gong Geer Apprentice Cheng
Zhu Jiang Apprentice Wei
Gao Yulin South Beauty Restaurant Manager
Wang Ruihuan Young Eunuch
Daniel Yu Cock Fighting Gambler 1
Ning Hao Cock Fighting Gambler 2
Liu Hua Swordsman 1
Xiong Xin Xin Swordsman 2
Li Ming Young Big Eight Chef
Chen Liwei Young Swordsman
Cai Hansen
Cao Jiafeng
Chen Xiao
Chu Jun
Deng
Du Jie
Ge Sichen
He Fei
Technical Credits
Wu Ershan Director, Screenwriter
Gong Geer Score Composer
Dead J. Score Composer
Zhang Jiajia Screenwriter
Yao Jinlong Executive Producer
Doug Liman Executive Producer
Ma Luoshan Screenwriter
David Man Asst. Director
Miquia Score Composer, Musical Direction/Supervision
Tang Que Screenwriter
Michal Tywonluk Cinematographer
Wang Wei Executive Producer
Zhu Xiaojia Sound/Sound Designer
Yang Xinliang Executive Producer
Tang Xiru Executive Producer, Producer
Yang Yang Executive Producer
Hao Yi Costumes/Costume Designer, Production Designer
Shao Yiding Executive Producer
Daniel Yu Producer
Huang Zhe Editor
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman
1. Chapter 1 [4:51]
2. Chapter 2 [:35]
3. Chapter 3 [3:20]
4. Chapter 4 [1:18]
5. Chapter 5 [2:46]
6. Chapter 6 [2:28]
7. Chapter 7 [3:24]
8. Chapter 8 [1:37]
9. Chapter 9 [3:21]
10. Chapter 10 [1:30]
11. Chapter 11 [4:54]
12. Chapter 12 [2:59]
13. Chapter 13 [4:10]
14. Chapter 14 [5:22]
15. Chapter 15 [2:46]
16. Chapter 16 [1:03]
17. Chapter 17 [4:32]
18. Chapter 18 [3:45]
19. Chapter 19 [2:28]
20. Chapter 20 [4:13]
21. Chapter 21 [3:49]
22. Chapter 22 [3:04]
23. Chapter 23 [:46]
24. Chapter 24 [3:22]
25. Chapter 25 [4:47]
26. Chapter 26 [6:20]
27. Chapter 27 [3:56]
28. Chapter 28 [4:15]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman
   Play
   Set up
      Audio: Chinese 5.1 Dolby Digital
      Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
      Subtitles: None
   Scenes
   Extras
      Theatrical Trailer
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