THE REBEL broke box-office records when it opened in its native
The time in 1922 and
Tri Nguyen is wonderfully tormented as the conflicted officer, and he’s also lithe and graceful as he twirls in mid-air like a dervish, dishing out marital arts punishment while clad in the most elegant of white suits. Ngo, the hip-hop star is gritty and entirely believable as the rebel princess. She doesn’t just succeed in kicking butt convincingly in a variety of interesting ways, there is a deadly look in her eyes that makes her entirely believable as someone who not only could, but is looking forward to the opportunity to do just that. Dustin Nguyen is the most watchable of the three, if only by a hair’s-breadth. There is the mystical self-possession with a roiling undercurrent of a danger that is pure malevolence.
Bey Logan, producer at the DVD’s distributor, Dragon Dynasty, once again offers a pithy, enthusiastic, and above all knowledgeable addition the commentary track that also features Thanh, Johnny Tri Nguyen, and Dustin Nguyen). The four of them are a lively bunch recalling the ridiculous and the sublime from the film shoot with
The other special feature of note has Tri Nguyen recreating the best of the Vo Thuat moves in a gym with stuntmen from THE REBEL. He does more than walk us through them, though, he highlights the moves both in the sparring situation and with clips from the film, and also explains exactly why they’re so deadly. It concludes not with a “don’t try this at home”, perhaps because for some it’s just too tempting, but rather with a more realistic “be really careful”.
THE REBEL is a solid martial arts flick that treats its through story as more than just filler between bouts. As a bonus, it’s also filled with the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside, as well as its history, and presented by a filmmaker who is obviously in love with both.