Made by Vietnamese Americans in Vietnam using a local crew on a budget of around one million dollars, “The Rebel” manages to be a slick action-adventure of the “Romancing the Stone” kind…minus the funny…and minus the alligator hand munching. This film alone stands to make Vietnam the new hot spot for action movies. Believe that!
Set in 1920s Vietnam, a rebel uprising has formed to oust the unwelcome French colonists. In turn, the French have employed a death squad of local badasses to find the rebels and wipe them all out. Thus, is the film’s violent backdrop.
We join the story just as Le Van Cuong (Johnny Nguyen ), one of the hitmen under the employ of the French, decides that he’s had enough of killing his fellow Vietnamese. So after a rebel, Vo Thanh Thuy, is captured during a violent attack and tortured for the whereabouts of the rebel leader, Cuong helps this prisoner escape and joins her on the lam as he is now seen as a traitor to the French cause.
Okay, we can believe that Cuong is sick of killing his own people, but we should also believe that another major reason for his change of heart is due to the fact that Vo Thanh Thuy is played by the extremely hot Vietnamese pop star Ngo Thanh Van. Just sayin’.
Every action film needs a strong villain and “The Rebel” has found it in Dustin Nguyen (“21 Jumpstreet,” “V.I.P.”). Marking what I believe to be his first villain role in his 20 plus years of acting. Nguyen is a deliciously cruel sonofabitch in this picture as he chases Cuong and Thuy through the countryside, which leads to much martial arts kickassery.
“The Rebel” wins in its simplicity. It keeps the story light, doesn’t meander too much in its own politics and avoids any convoluted sidetracks. It keeps its focus and that’s to provide a thrilling, romantic adventure. Oh, yes. Romance. It’s a great date movie, too. But first and foremost, “The Rebel” is a top-notch action flick and it delivers a steady supply of beautifully choreographed fight scenes, each one succeeding the last in chaotic enormity until we reach the ball-busting finale. So badass, it hurts…but it hurts so good.
It’s good times, folks. Plain and simple. I’m proud to say that “The Rebel” kicked my a*s.