France employs local secret agents in Vietnam 1922 to eliminate resistance. The rebel leader's pretty daughter gets captured. Later an agent seems to have fallen in love with her and helps her escape. He flees, too. Lots of martial arts.
Van Veronica Ngo,
Trinh, a mercenary, must complete a series of organized crime jobs for her boss in order to win the release of her kidnapped daughter. She hires several mercenaries to help, including Quan,... See full summary »
Thanh Son Le
Van Veronica Ngo,
Hoang Phuc Nguyen
The re-enactment of the long dress (ao dai) era in 1960s, Saogon, thought to be the heyday of traditional Vietnamese costumes. Interwoven into that transformation in fashion and style of ... See full summary »
Buu Loc Tran
Ninh Duong Lan Ngoc,
Van Veronica Ngo
Nguyen Vu is the sole survivor of his family who was executed by the empress of Vietnam. Upon discovering that his family may have been framed for crimes they did not commit, he sets out to bring justice and clear his family name.
Until they lose their baby to a miscarriage, a young couple were happily settling into their new life in their spacious home. After the tragedy, Thao is inconsolable and won't let her ... See full summary »
Van Veronica Ngo,
Son Bao Tran,
Van Hai Bui
While on a mission to retrieve fugitives in Vietnam, Dao, a commander in the Emperor's army, finds himself in the middle of a deadly conflict raging between a tyrannical crime boss, and the peaceful town that he has under his thumb. But when Dao realizes that Ahn, the beautiful monk warrior who fled the Emperor's army is living a secretive new life there, Dao must choose between upholding his oath to the Emperor, and fighting to preserve Ahn's cherished town.Written by
Grindstone Entertainment Group, LLC.
Even though THE REBEL placed Vietnam on the map as a supplier of martial arts fare, the country's relatively meager output makes it easy to forget about that over time. With Vietnamese action flicks finding international release at a rate of maybe one every two years, the need for quality among these films is extra important, and disappointingly, the 2013 entry – ONCE UPON A TIME INVIETNAM - falls short. Exceling on some fronts, floundering on others, and simply overdoing it otherwise, this minor epic scrapes an average but unenthusiastic rating from me. It's easy to imagine how cool this could have been had it a bit more sense when it came to some important aspects.
The story: In a time when Vietnam is protected by an army of elite warrior-monks, one of their number (Dustin Nguyen) arrives in a rural town on a mission and is forced to confront his past in the form of a forbidden lover (Veronica Ngo).
The movie looks great, with a striking art design. A mixture of steampunk and video game-style fantasy makes for a visual tone that's simultaneously unique and familiar. I've never seen its likes on film before, and the producers keep this look consistent, with even the being CGI well-integrated. The story, on the other hand, is less consistent. The plot starts out as director Dustin Nguyen's take on YOJIMBO, but levels off into a family drama and a love angle between Nguyen and Ngo. The characters have their entertaining moments, especially Thai Hoa in his role as Ngo's husband, but they're not so intriguing that I'm on the edge of my seat to see how they work out their problems. Quite the opposite – I'm slumped in my chair, waiting for the matter of Ngo's son's paternity be solved so I can get back to the action scenes.
These action scenes are also a mixed bag. Nguyen can be one of the best kickers in the business if offered the opportunity, Ngo is still among our brightest hopes for a new female action lead, and B-movie dragon Roger Yuan – showing up in the last half-hour as the villain – always has something good to add, but their fights just aren't up to the standard karate junkies are looking for. For the most part, the brawls are modeled after modern Hong Kong output, which means that there's some wirework and a lot of unnecessary slow motion. These eyesores aren't omnipresent, and occasionally the choreography and pacing of a fight are good enough to power through these unwanted excesses, but unless you're a fan of overly-artistic kung fu, you won't find maximum enjoyment. Most action fans have seen these kinds of matches before, performed a lot better.
I'd love to see Dustin refine his style of action filmmaking, but if this is the kind of work he intends to produce in the future, I will be a lot less eager to see subsequent directorial efforts. Rent this as a take-it-or-leave-it adventure, but do not expect to find a new favorite.
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