Following in the footsteps of "Deathtrap" and Stephen King's "Misery," the thriller "Black Butterfly" doesn't exactly reinvent its "twisty cat-and-mouse game in an isolated location" plot. But thanks to tight direction by Brian Goodman and lively performances from Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the film's engaging even when it's ridiculous.
Banderas plays a blocked, alcoholic, formerly famous writer named Paul, who's trying to knock out a screenplay at a remote mountain cabin. Meyers is Jack, a scraggly stranger who defends Paul in a squabble at a diner, then accepts an offer to crash with him — and to serve as a sounding board for story ideas.
The two stars generate some palpable tension, as Jack and Paul role-play their way through the latter's stalled script. Their dynamic becomes more strained when a real estate agent (Piper Perabo) shows up, stressed out by reports of a local serial murderer dubbed "the Roadside Killer."
Writers Justin Stanley and Marc Frydman adapted "Black Butterfly" from the French TV movie "Papillon Noir," and while they do well with the obviously personal scenes of creative types collaborating, they don't have much luck making the plot plausible.
But as with Goodman's solid 2008 crime picture "What Doesn't Kill You," "Black Butterfly" puts well-drawn characters — and the audience — through the wringer. It's a well-constructed suspense film, using very few pieces.
Rating: R, for language
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Monica Film Center, Santa Monica