Archive for the Johnny Nguyen Category

Johnny Tri Nguyen gets back in action! The Trailer for Chinatown!

Posted in Johnny Nguyen on February 13, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

All thanks go out to the good folks at Asian Movie Pulse for steering me to the trailer for Johnny Tri Nguyen’s newest film, Chinatown! The plot follows one 24 hour period as a gang war erupts. Looks like some down and dirty machete action here! Between this and Dustin Nguyen’s Buddha Fire Vietnam is beginning to stake their claim within martial arts cinema in 2013! Check it out below!

 

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Review: Clash (2011)

Posted in Johnny Nguyen, Veronica Ngo with tags , , on August 18, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

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.


Review: The Protector (aka Tom Yum Goong) (2005)

Posted in Johnny Nguyen, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Panna Rittikrai, Reviews, Tony Jaa with tags , , , on August 24, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Tony Jaa, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Johnny Nguyen

Fight Choreography by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew

Tony Jaa jumped into the international martial arts scene with Ong Bak, a brutally beautiful martial arts film that hit like a breath of fresh air. Tony followed it up with The Protector, and while it may not trump Ong Bak in the story department, it more than makes up for it with more ambitious fight scenes, one of which has to be seen to be believed.

The point of this film is simple. Boy has elephant stolen. Boy kicks the ass of everyone standing between him and his elephant. It really does boil down to being that simple. Jaa plays Cam, a boy raised to be a protector for the royal elephants, considered majestic war creatures in their culture.

He leads the innocent life of the country bumpkin (and if you’ve read my previous reviews, you know what that means) who, along with his father, takes the elephant to a festival where the elephant, Por Yai, can be tested and listed as a King’s elephant, but the guys who run the test have different ideas, which Cam is unaware since he is charged with watching the Por Yai’s baby elephant Kohrn. The men turn out to be poachers in disguise, and steal both Por Yai and Kohrn, shooting Cam’s father in the process. I thought he took his dad’s death really lightly, but Cam soon finds out where some of the boss’ of the poachers live, and crashes a little party they were having, and delivers a great opening scene beatdown that leads to a ludicrous boat chase ending in some old school 80’s overkill: crashing a wooden boat into a helicopter and blowing both of them up. Cool. Pointless, but cool.

He soon heads to Sydney, Australia, where he had found out that the elephants have been kidnapped by Rose, a woman who works for some company that doesn’t respect her, so she kills her way to the top, and needs the elephant which she thinks will give her the ultimate lucky rabbit’s foot. A really big one. She owns a front restaurant named Tom Yum Goong, and that may be where Cam’s answers lie. No sooner does he arrive than he bumps into a Jackie Chan impersonator (Jaa had asked Jackie to be in the film, but due to other commitments he wasn’t able to.) . Yeah, it’s cheesy, but he properly pays his respect to one of the Masters of Kung-Fu Cinema. He meets a fellow Thai named Mark who happens to be a police officer who arrests Jaa after capturing him during a mistaken cab theft. Jaa gets away from Mark, who inadvertently takes him right by the restaurant he was looking for.

The man who run the restaurant for Rose is a street thug named Johnny(Johnny Nguyen), Who kicks Cam around a bit after he is found, but Cam, never one to give up, follows Johnny and his gang to a warehouse where a drug deal was about to go down when Cam comes running in. Johnny calls the rest of his gang, all of whom look as if they were the leftovers from Rumble in the Bronx, and Tony pays his homage to Jackie by fighting them in a way very close to what Jackie would have done at that time. Afterward Cam is saved by Johnny’s girl for who the hell knows what reason, and along with the help of Mark, make their way through a lot of fighting to get to Rose, who has his elephants and won’t give them back without one last battle…

Tony Jaa gets more ambitious with each film, and while this story is scattershot (Dragon Dynasty has 2 versions of the film in the same disc set-watch the Thai version or you won’t know what the hell is going on.) it really shows Tony taking more chances with fight techniques on film.

Each fight in some ways try to outdo what he had done before, but the crown jewel here is in 3 scenes:

The fight up the building, an astonishing 10 minute fight sequence that is shot unedited of Tony Jaa taking all comers as he ascends a building. Not Bruce, Jet or Jackie or anyone else has ever attempted such a thing, and Tony pulls it off, even looking exhausted by the end of it. I don’t even want to know how many takes this took to do this. Lo to the stuntman who misses his queue, for doom shall surely chase him to Valhalla. After ward it features a good fight between himself and Johnny Nguyen, who is quickly rising in the martial arts film ranks.

The next great scene is a fight between himself and Lateef Crowder, one of the best capoeira maestra’s in the world (His father is the best. He did the motion capture for Eddie Gordo in Tekken 2 and 3)

Muay Thai versus capoeira makes for one hell of a fight. I love it when two totally different styles of martial arts are pitted against each other. There are strategies to battle that both sides have to consider. This extends to the fight with Jon Foo and his chinese sword, also well done, but Lateef takes the cake with this one.

The last fight is ludicrous but funny as wave after wave of nameless thugs attack Cam, and he proceeds to make sure that every one of them has a bone-or bones-broken somewhere, anywhere. After the first 20 guys, you’d think the others would go “screw this!” More celery sticks were sacrificed for this film more than any where else. He caught up to Steven Seagal after one film! There were so many ouch moments I can’t even say-not just in this scene-well, mostly this scene.

This film has one message: Kidnap Tony Jaa’s elephant and he will hunt you down and hurt you. Badly.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Tony really out did himself here. The fights are all complicated and fantastic, especially versus Leteef Crowder, and how they pulled off the timing for that 10-minute continuous fight through the restaurant is nearly beyond comprehension.

STUNTS: (10) Tony and his stunt team went above and beyond for this one. The 10 minute fight up the restaurant is worth the price of admission alone!

STAR POWER: (8) Tony Jaa, Lateef Crowder, Jon Foo, and Johnny Nguyen. All up and comers who are slated in films coming soon.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Tony shot for the gold and came real close. An uneven story derails this film, but the fights are second to none.

Review: Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)

Posted in Jet Li, Johnny Nguyen, Kelly Hu, Mark Dacascos, Reviews with tags , on August 13, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, DMX, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Andrej Bartkowiak

Jet’s American follow-up to Romeo Must Die reteams him with director Andrej Bartkowiak and gives him a partner with DMX, also just hot off of his team up with Steven Seagal in Exit Wounds. Can what followed be a better film than Romeo Must Die?

In a word, no. In two words, hell no. The film opens with an opening credit sequence that rips off of one of the only good things about Romeo Must Die. The film opens as DMX and his one of his posse mates take a lovely stroll through a subway tunnel on their way to steal some diamonds for some European fellow. Meanwhile, enter Jet, who has been tailing the European dude for unknown reasons. A really cool scene showing Jet’s stuntman scaling down a building, and then Jet rushes in and Seagals ™ the European guy.

Meanwhile we get treated to Anthony Anderson being somewhat funny as he tries to distract a gay security guard at the vault DMX is trying to get into. Of course, to this point we still don’t know what the HELL is going on except that diamonds are needing to be stolen. Jet then calls the police and then DMX to let him know that the police have been called…

Okay, I’m interrupting myself right here. To this point, 10-15 minutes into the film no one knows a damn thing about what’s going on. They don’t even bother to name names for at least the first 15-20 minutes before you pick up at least one person’s name, as if it isn’t important. And they’re right. It isn’t. Jet is being cool Jet. DMX is DMX. Anthony Anderson is Anthony Anderson, Mark Dacascos is-you get the picture. No one is really acting in this film, so you pretty much won’t care about what happens next, but I’ll clue you in anyway.

DMX and his team are trying to-and do-steal a black diamond that really isn’t a diamond, but uranium that can cause a nuclear explosion that can wipe out a city that was developed by China. Mark Dacascos and his henchmen Kelly Hu and Johnny Nguyen (yes, Johnny Nguyen from the Rebel and the Protector-everyone has to start somewhere, I guess) show up to steal the mineral and sell it to a group of the most powerful arms dealers.

To do so he kidnaps DMX’s daughter, so in turn DMX and his team enlist the help of a small time arms dealer played by Tom Arnold, whose 15 minutes of fame he cooked up by being good in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Lies had expired long before he made this film. He also teams up with Jet to find his daughter, after they team up to beat up some of Mark’s thugs. (Johnny Nguyen gets his ass kicked by DMX? WTF??! It should have been an epic fight between him and Jet, but this film dropped the ball, as it constantly does.

After a completely implausible car chase intercut with Jet beating down a bunch of MMA dudes (a guilty pleasure, I admit) they find out where DMX’s daughter is and the Uranium, and the entire group go to face Mark and his crew for a fight to the end, or sequel, or whatever. There isn’t enough that could have been done to mess this film up any more unless they burn all the prints. This was nothing more than an 82 minute DMX music video that happened to guest star Li and Dacascos. Thankfully Jet won’t make another film with this group…

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (3) Once again, Corey slums it, but I don’t think that is his fault. Bartkowiak is a horrid director who has hopefully gone back to making music videos. You have a Johnny Nguyen and Mark Dacascos and Kelly Hu and you can only come up with quick-edited fights like that? Really? Not even the beatdown of the MMA guys, wires and all-can save this dreck.

STUNTS: (3) Barely passable wirework. Jet barely had anything to do. Why was Johnny Nguyen even there?

STAR POWER: (6) DMX, Jet Li, Mark Dacascos, Anthony Anderson, Kelly Hu, Gabrielle Union. All that and this is what happens. Dreadful.

FINAL GRADE: (3) Jet just kinda showed up for this one. Folks, this film was made to sell the soundtrack more than make a cool martial arts film. I’ll just say it, one of the worst ever. Please Jet, never work with them again. Avoid this film at all costs.

THE GREAT DISASTER OF EAST MEETS WEST

Posted in Jackie Chan, Jacky Wu Jing, Jeeja Yanin, Jet Li, Johnny Nguyen, Tony Jaa with tags , , on April 27, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Jackie Chan Rush Hour 2

-OR-

MAKING THE CASE FOR STAYING WHERE THEY ARE

 by Michael S Moore

Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan. Jet Li. Michelle Yeoh. Sammo Hung. Donnie Yen. Colin Chou. Ringo Lam. Tsui Hark. John Woo. All of them greats of martial arts films, almost all of them legendary in shaping martial arts cinema in one way or another. Many of them are entering the twilight of their respective careers due to age, and already a new crop of martial artists have come up, smashing their way into film: Tony Jaa, Jacky Wu Jing, Jeeja Yanin, Johnny Nguyen, and Iko Uwais, just to name a few. All of them incredibly talented with positive outlooks on the future for them all, entertaining us with fantastic acrobatics and amazing martial arts skills. Which is why it is so important that, despite what they may think and even what they might feel, they never come to these shores.

What all of the first group I mentioned have in common is that they all came to the USA to make films, and with but one exception, have failed here. First let’s understand why they came here. Bruce had already been in America before, doing the Green Hornet before forging his career in Hong Kong, and then returning to us to do Enter The Dragon, so that’s more or less understood. In the case of the others, Jackie Chan had come here once before but returned on his own terms with Rumble in the Bronx, which was a box office success. This opened the gates for everyone to try their hand, as that was shortly before China took control of Hong Kong, and no one knew what would happen to the freedoms they had enjoyed for so long, fearing the censorship that could occur under China’s control. I think the allure of Hollywood beckoned them, not necessarily because of the money, which was far more than they ever made here, but because they would enjoy less stressful productions, since they only needed to work on one film at a time (in Hong Kong many of them would be working on 2-3 films at the same time!), and due to their advanced ages, at least for the actors, less stress and strain on the body, since they would have some stunt doubles for some of the more crazier stunts. For the directors, it was a chance to work with bigger budgets and a different crop of movie stars. All of these wishes came true. They also resulted in failure and a complete waste of time.

To start with, one of the problems is that Hollywood wooed them here with promises of increased fame and fortune, and then proceeded to strip away all of the things that made them special to begin with.

One of the biggest issues are the fight scenes themselves. In the words of director Brett Ratner, on the first Rush Hour commentary, he stated that “Americans don’t like long fight scenes. A fight needs to be no more than 2 minutes long at most”. Let me go on record for citing  just how foolish and wrong that is, and that relegating Jackie Chan to 2 minutes is heresy. I would almost agree with his assessment-if you are talking about horrible fight scenes. These are people who have built careers on 5 to 10 to 30 minute fight scenes, and that’s what everyone wants to see, American or not. Unfortunately most USA directors agree with Ratner. Since this is so, they are having to not only shorten their fight scenes, but spend nearly zero time choreographing them, and they all wind up looking like shadows of their HK films. There’s not one fight in any of Jackie or Jet’s American films that resemble even their weakest HK efforts. Since they also can’t do any crazy falls or jumps or take hits due to the insurance companies, it further sanitized them.

Then we have the issue that, since they don’t speak much English, the need is felt to team them up with the likes of Chris Tucker, James Bond, Owen Wilson, Mark Walhberg, and DMX. Now we have someone who has equal, if not more screen time than they do either being overly dramatic or funny, which takes away from seeing one more fight scene, and the comedy has more misses than hits. The martial artist is pushed aside and relegated to being the sidekick who comes in and does a few moves before the up and coming actor takes over to be funny or dramatic. Then we come to the issue of CGI effects. You don’t need them if you have men and women who are their own greatest special effect. Seeing Jet defying gravity in Romeo Must Die or The One doesn’t come close to thrilling audiences as much as watching him fight Billy Chow at the end of Fist of Legend, or watching him and the Shaolin monks defend their temple at the end of Shaolin Temple.

Put simply, the Hollywood machine takes them all and makes them something we don’t want to see. It makes them tame. Less dangerous. Jackie Chan is a prime example of this. While in the USA he is forced to play buffoon after silly buffoon, and yes, in his HK films he is funny, but there was still danger there.You might laugh at or with him, but you still wouldn’t want to face him in a dark alley. The tigers have had their teeth pulled.

The good news is that most of them have gone back to Hong Kong, and have started making good films again. Donnie Yen may be the best Hong Kong martial artist working today, Sammo Hung has had a career renaissance with Killzone and Fatal Move, and the upcoming Ip Man 2, Michelle Yeoh is making waves in True Legend, Jet Li had the Warlords, but has mostly retired except for a few parts here and there, and Jackie Chan has been going back and forth between the USA and China, and has Shaolin and Chinese Zodiac in production, with Little Big Soldier and Shinjuku Incident recently released, while in the USA he had The Spy Next Door, which should tell you what Mr. Chan truly thinks of Hollywood, and his place in it.

I decided to write this after hearing calls on different blogsites and even among friends that they can’t wait “until Tony Jaa comes to the U.S.!” I would challenge that by asking “why would you want that?”

If Tony Jaa is what you want, you’ll never see that person here. If you believe he can make a film like The Protector here, with its jaw dropping 10 minute continous fight scene, you are kidding yourself. He would be a shadow of what you want him to be. Tony and the rest should stay at home and make their films there, under their own watchful eye and sensibilities, and the let them take flight in a way they never will be able to here.

I implore them, as a true fan of martial arts films, to stay in the comforts of home. Let fans in the United States love them from here, with our imports and subtitled films. Let our love reach across the ocean, and if Hollywood invites you here, please thank them for the offer, and then politely refuse. We won’t take it personally.