Review: Clash (2011)
starring Johnny Tri Nguyen, Veronica Ngo, Hoang Phuc
Fight Choreography by Johnny Tri Nguyen
Directed by Le Thahn Son
Johnny Nguyen is having quite a career right now. After being Toby Maguire’s stuntman in Spider -Man 1 and 2, playing a thug in Cradle 2 the Grave (getting beaten up by DMX no less), he really came to the attention of martial arts film fans when he played the villainous Johnny in Tony Jaa’s The Protector and his career has since taken off after he starred in the Vietnamese hit The Rebel, and now he returns in Clash, but the real star here may be his co-star from The Rebel Veronica Ngo.
Clash is a cops and gangsters film about a young woman named Trinh, aka Phoenix (Ngo), a hard-assed woman who is working for the gangster Black Dragon (Phuc), who is trying to recover a laptop which has a defense satellite link in it to perhaps sell it to the highest bidder, and is holding Phoenix’s daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in a very long time, ransom. She is given a team of bad guys, one of which is a mysterious man named Quan (Nguyen) , to pull off the job. Things go wrong during the heist, and most of the team is killed. Things get worse after they retrieve the laptop are betrayed by on of their members, the fantastically named Cang Grenade,who intends to sell the laptop on the black market. A race to find the laptop begins, and not everyone is who they claim to be, but Trinh must get the laptop first, else her daughter will be killed…
Clash is a good action film that has a good story, and as the film goes along we learn more and more about the backstory of Quan and Trihn, and in so doing find out about their reasons for wanting the laptop. The film even has a crazy death the likes of which I’ve never seen before: a character gets killed during a gunfight because he gets distracted when a beautiful woman runs in front of him, and her bouncing breasts distract him, and POW! Game over! How jacked up is that? Johnny Tri Nguyen is good as Quan, a typical brooding anti-hero, but Johnny has some nuances in his performance, but the real star here is Veronica Ngo. She brings a toughness that none of the other men in the film seem to have, but at the same time has a tortured soul that shows she’s got some good range. Hoang Phuc is a right bastard as Black Dragon, and seems impervious to everything until the end, which was also kinda crazy as far as the story goes. The entire film Black Dragon seems to be this unstoppable martial arts badass whom suddenly becomes stoppable at the end simply because the story demands it. It somehow belittles any victories won by the heroes.
The fight choreography is pretty solid, not spectacular, but has some good moments, such as the forest brawl and the ware house fight. Ngo has a good command of action in these scenes, and really shows off her stuff, and just like many films nowadays mixes kung fu (or whatever style) with mixed martial arts. Johnny brings his A game to the film. There is no real great one-on-one fights, but the multiple opponent fights are good. The final two fights are really good, but not great. They’re missing that little something I can’t quite put my finger on. The camera work sometimes has a hard time keeping up with the movements, and even cuts heads off because it’s too close in some scenes.
Clash continues to show that Vietnamese action films are growing and getting better and better, and Johnny Tri Nguyen is getting better with them, and Veronica Ngo is joining the ranks of female martial arts film stars such as Jeeja Yanin. In fact, wouldn’t that make a cool fight between them? Powers that be, make it happen!
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):
CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) The fight scenes are very well done, and the final fights are good, but are missing an edge to make them better. Nguyen does a good job staging them for the street-like feel. The camerawork could have been a bit better. Maybe it’s more a matter of style than mistake.
STUNTWORK: (7) Nothing crazy here, but it’s all well done.
STAR POWER: (8) Johnny Tri Nguyen is getting better with each film, and Veronica Ngo is rising up the ranks of martial arts film stars quickly.
FINAL GRADE: (8) A solid martial arts film that has some good moments and continues to show that Vietnamese action cinema is prepared to take its place alongside other countries who have seen an explosion of martial arts badassery in the last few years.