Upon viewing Charlie Nguyen’s The Rebel (Dong Mau Anh Hung), I hope the Vietnamese action flick, unlike Vietnamese pop music, won’t be a Chinese-infected entertainment. As soon as the daughter of a secret anti-French leader Vo Thanh Thuy (Ngo Thanh Van) was captured and escaped with the help of Le Van Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) whose mission was to use Thuy to get to her father, Yimou Zhang’s House of the Flying Daggers rings the bell. I am not suggesting that the story was copied; I am just disappointing with lack of originality.
The Rebel relied too much on the fighting scenes to carry the pace. The chorography became repetitive after a few fights. Try to count how many spin kicks Johnny Nguyen had used. Ngo Thanh Van took plenty of beating and slapping. Acting wise, Dustin Nguyen stole the show as a badass villain. He looked tough, heartless, and had the most charisma out the main cast.
The main issue of The Rebel is the dialogue. Sometimes I have to read the English subtitles to understand what Johnny Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen and Nguyen Thang (damn, too many Nguyen) speak in Vietnamese. How ironic is that? The funniest term is used when Nguyen Thang calls Ngo Thanh Van “cho cai” (“bitch”). I have heard a much worst degrading term for female in Vietnamese, but never heard “cho cai” being used in that context.
“What makes you proud of this film?” In an interview, Johnny Nguyen’s answer was: “The fact that Vietnamese could make action film too. We have our own style of fighting.” Sure, bro. But the problem is we’re still short on invention.