REVIEW: DVD Release: Clash

Film: Clash
Release date: 21st February 2011
Certificate: 15
Running time: 94 mins
Director: Le Thanh Son
Starring: Johnny Nguyen, Veronica Ngo
Genre: Action/Martial Arts
Studio: Revolver
Format: DVD
Country: Vietnam

Clash, also known as Bay Rong, is a Vietnamese produced and martial arts filled action/thriller from director Le Thanh Son. The film was written by one of the stars of the film in Johnny Nguyen, a prolific martial arts actor and stunt double in Hollywood productions including Spiderman 2, Collateral and X Men: First Class.

Trinh (Ngo Thanh Van) is a former child prostitute bought out of the brothel by a local crime lord. As he raised her, he taught her to kill — enlisting her to kill his business contacts via seduction. To keep her loyal, he kidnapped her daughter who he’ll only release if she performs seven dangerous and criminal tasks.

Trinh builds up a team of reluctant but cash-fuelled mercenaries, including Quan (Johnny Nguyen) and the treacherous Cang (Lam Minh Thang). Together, the group attempt the tasks set by Trinh’s crime lord boss without knowing the true motivations of Trinh herself. Similarly, the other members of the group have their own hidden secrets and incentives, and may not all be what they seem…

Clash is an extremely stylish and well polished film, with well heeled gangsters and action packed sequences under Thanh Son’s direction, and Dominic Pereira’s cinematography looking exquisite as an advert for Vietnamese filmmaking. The corrupt, crime-ridden night life of Ho Chi Minh City is brutally presented in the film, with a convincing sense that gangs and criminal elements are rife in the city.

In the central role, Ngo Thanh Van as Trinh holds the film together and adds more than the well choreographed action scenes. Trinh gains the codename Phoenix in the film, which is very apt when considering the ashes of her troubled life that she is attempting to rise from. Van Ngo presents a subtlety to Trinh, particularly in the early stages of the film, that belies her hardened exterior and ‘just as tough as the men’ attitude.

Indeed, when the turmoil of her young life is revealed, and Trinh’s true motivations become clear – to rescue her daughter from a crime boss and break free from a life on the mean city streets – the character grows a dimension beyond her primary role as leader of a group of mercenary misfits. Her interaction with Johnny Nguyen’s Quan (codename: Tiger) is touching in its development, and consequently has a feeling of reality to it, even amidst the frequent martial arts sequences. It is interesting to note that Nguyen himself wrote the film with a slightly lesser focus on himself; allowing some breathing space for the emotional character driven moments in the film, which lead to real consequences to the group dynamic during the action and chase scenes.

The action scenes themselves appear to be very well executed, as might be expected from the likes of Johnny Nguyen, who is renowned as a stunt actor and co-ordinator in Asia and Hollywood. There are several fight sequences which stand out in the film, including a dual one-on-one brawl between Quan and the crime boss, and Trinh with the duplicitous Cang. There is also a scene where Trinh and her group infiltrate a house with the “Frenchies” inside, leading to a catastrophic outbreak of violence and death with ingenious co-ordination as the team pursue the film’s MacGuffin known as ‘the briefcase’.

However, ‘the briefcase’ throughout the film is poorly defined in terms of what it may do if it “falls in the wrong hands,” as we are continually reminded. As a MacGuffin to propel events in the film forward, ‘the briefcase’ serves some purpose, even if it is rather redundant as a threat overall. The frequent fight and chase scenes also distract from the danger of ‘the briefcase’, although because these scenes are so well executed, there is an appropriate focus on the human interactions between the main characters as well as the twists and turns of their true motivations.

The relationship between Trinh and Quan subtly develops throughout the film (even with some twists at the end), as Trinh begins to let her guard down. While these scenes between the two characters do contain touching moments, with some semblances of quiet realism amongst the crashes and bangs elsewhere in the film, there is also a hint of soap opera-esque emotions, at times, which might be too much for some.

An entertaining and action-packed thrill-ride of a film, Clash contains numerous great action scenes with genuinely innovate moments amidst the familiar martial arts. The central performances, particularly from Ngo Thanh Van and the lightning fast Johnny Nguyen, are impressive in showing their emotional complexity; creating a sense of genuine emotional attachment between both actors where it otherwise could seem overly played out and forced. DB

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