Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Rebel

At least according to the DVD case, this 2007 film is the highest grossing film in Vietnamese history. It's easy to understand why. The Rebel takes place in 1922 during the French occupation of Vietnam and clearly speaks to nationalistic themes that probably resonated for many people in Vietnam. Plus it's a beautifully shot film with great action sequences and awesome martial arts fighting courtesy of star Johnny Tri Nguyen (who played a villain in Tony Jaa's The Protector).

Nguyen, a martial arts expert and stunt double, also helped write and direct the movie. So this was clearly a labor of love for him.  His fight scenes are really strong, and there's no indication of any 'wire-fu'; these fights are real and gritty. In case you doubt it, one of the extras shows Nguyen demonstrating some the more impressive kicks and take-downs in 'real life'. Another plus (I have to admit) is that Nguyen is a very handsome man, as well as a terrific athlete, so there's some definite eye candy as well. In one scene Nguyen fights with his shirt off, muscles rippling all over the place. Very impressive.

The only critical comment I could make about The Rebel is that the pacing is a little off. The first third of the film moves very quickly, but then there are some slow scenes until the finale. It's not that they are boring or that the movie can't hold your interest, it's just these scenes come off as notably slow versus the rest of the movie.  Other than that, this is a well-shot and performed martial arts movie with a great story at it's core. Recommended!

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