With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ACF 153: The Rebel 2-Disc DVD Out Today!

The Rebel
Directed by Truc "Charlie" Nguyen
Vietnam, 2006, 103 min

As I indicated just over a week ago in ACF 151, the Vietnamese action/drama The Rebel is coming out today in a Two-Disc Ultimate Edition from Dragon Dynasty. The film is set in Vietnam during the 1920s, when it was a French colony. At that time, the French used Vietnamese agents to combat rebel freedom fighters. The two main agents in the film are Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) and Sy (Dustin Nguyen). They capture a young woman (Veronica Ngo) who's the daughter of a rebel leader and use her as bait in an attempt to capture her father.

The movie is cram-packed with terrific action scenes. Many of the moves will be familiar to fans of Hong Kong kung fu films and of Thailand's Ong Bak, but there are a number of kicks and flying scissor moves that are unique to Vietnamese martial arts. Veronica has some particularly outstanding signature moves.

Johnny Tri Nguyen as Le Van Cuong

I found the dramatic element of the movie to be much better than what I normally expect out of such an actioner. I will say that at a certain point, the film does start to share some of the plot line of House of Flying Daggers. Fortunately, it's does not share the number of layers of that film's revelation upon revelation, like too many skins of an onion.Finally, the production values are excellent, somewhat surprising since as co-star Dustin Nguyen says in his interview, "the infrastructure for film-making [in Vietnam] is not quite there yet."

As always, the extras from Dragon Dynasty are terrific. The three separate interviews with the principal actors, all in English, are each over 30 minutes long, as is the making of featurette. Be sure to stick around after the credits roll at the end of the making of featurette; there's a neat song about film making sung (in Vietnamese with English subtitles) by one of the members of the crew.

Veronica Ngo (r) as Vo Thanh Thuy

A behind the scenes gallery offers a look at the shooting of 11 scenes. A short extra has star Johnny Nguyen, who also c0-wrote the script, co-produced, and served as action director, demonstrating some of the martial arts moves. There's only one deleted scene present, but for once it's interesting. Combined with some comments in the interviews, it adds to one's understanding of Sy's seeming invulnerability.

There's a commentary with Johnny, Veronica, Dustin and Asian cinema expert Bey Logan available as an audio option on Disc 1. (All the other options are on the second disc.) This is the only thing I haven't had time to listen to, but I'll bet dollars to donuts that it's fascinating.

Dustin Nguyen as Sy

I will say one thing that is surprising is the absence of an interview with director Charlie Nguyen, Johnny's brother, and of him on the commentary track. Kinda weird, but not really a biggie.

The Rebel is the highest grossing Vietnamese film ever made, which is interesting but not reason enough in and of itself to buy the DVD. No, the reason to buy it is that the both film and the extras provided are really great. You owe it to yourself to have this Vietnamese actioner in your collection.

Film: 3.5 out of 4 stars (highly recommended)

Extras: 4 out of 4 stars (top notch)

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