The Rebel

"Very Good"

The Rebel Review


History is full of ugly colonial abuses, from the British in America to the Belgians in the Congo. But nowhere did 20th century colonialism lead to more disastrous results then in Vietnam, where the French set out to modernize -- and loot -- the country... and ended up leaving nothing but disaster in their wake.

The Rebel takes a tightly focused look at the situation in 1922, when French arrogance is at its most extreme and impoverished rebels run wild trying to win back their land through sabotage, civil disobedience, and assassinations. The streets of Saigon are chaotic as rebels, led by the young and lovely Vo (Thanh Van Ngo), murder a French official right under the noses of his brutal security chief, the collaborator Sy (Dustin Nguyen), and Sy's dashing underling Cuong (Johnny Nguyen). When Vo is captured, Sy and Cuong torture her ruthlessly to find out the location of her group's hideout, but eventually Cuong takes pity on her (or does he?), switches sides (or does he?), and helps her escape back to her village.

Sy is apoplectic with rage at this turn of events, and he expresses it in a series of wild displays of close-quarters martial arts fighting featuring lots of broken furniture and tumbles down staircases. Leave all the politics, intrigue, and love stories aside, and you still have an above-average kung fu flick here. No wires and no tricks. Just some great hand-to-hand combat notable for its violence and bloody results.

Disguised as downtrodden peasants, Vo and Cuong find themselves dumped at an iron mine where French cruelty is on vivid display. Turned into slaves, the peasants suffer deprivation and beatings, but luckily, Vo's quick kung fu hands help her grab her overseer's whip and engineer a quick escape. All roads lead to a final awful showdown between French troops and rebels in a shabby little village. A massacre on both sides, it's an impressive display of how little human life is valued by colonial oppressors struggling with their "white man's burden."

But before Vo and Cuong can walk off into the sunset, they'll have to face the demonic and seemingly indestructible Sy one more time, this time in a series of dusty railroad cars. This brawl is a real bone-cruncher. Kudos to all three leads (and their stunt doubles) for pulling off some amazing head kicks and eye gouges.

Reportedly shot for just $3 million, The Rebel is one of the "biggest" movies to have come out of the nascent Vietnamese movie industry. It may have gone straight to video here, but that shouldn't be a reflection on its quality or production values. This is a great-looking film, and it will certainly satisfy action junkies who like lots of brutal gunfire and nasty brawls.

Charlie don't roundhouse.



The Rebel

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th April 2007

Distributed by: The Weinstein Co.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Truc Nguyen

Producer: , Johnny Nguyen

Also starring: ,

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