Written by Fumo Verde
When I was growing up Sunday afternoons meant one thing, Kung Fu Theater. My friends and I were so into it, we tried to make our own. That’s when video cameras where half the size of you or at least they weighed like it. Hence, I took a shot on The Rebel from Dragon Dynasty, and I was not disappointed. The story centers around the oppressive French rule of Vietnam or French Indo-China as it was known in 1922. The French use other Vietnamese to do most of their dirty work, and our hero is one of these men. As the film progress, the hero played by Johnny Tri Nguyen, comes to understand why the rebels are rebelling, he also falls in love for the heroine played by Veronica Ngo. As in most Kung Fu movies, the good guys suffer but in the end they defeat their enemies as they come to grips with their own internal problems. Director Charlie Nguyen captures this along with some incredible fight scenes.
The mindset of the early 20th century was still the same mindset of the past 200 years: if you weren’t a white European or a white North American, you were considered sub-human, so killing you, because you gave me the stink eye or whistled at my woman wasn’t a big deal. The brutality of most conquerors over their newly inherited subjects is usually one of disdain and contempt with a belief that these sub-humans should be thankful for us saving them. With this as the backdrop the viewer quickly identifies with the underdog, and has you waiting for the shift in momentum when the repressor gets repressed. I found myself shouting at characters urging them to fight their enemy. Charlie Nguyen artfully builds the climax and draws it out just a little more; this makes the viewer want to get up in there and fight.
Now they say on the back jacket Johnny Tri Nguyen is a double agent. You get the feeling from the start that he should be with the rebels, but it doesn;t happen until he meets the rebel girl played by the beautiful Veronica Ngo. Her character gets tortured and beat down, but she always rebounds and kicks ass.
My favorite character has to be 21 Jump Street's own, Dustin Tri Nguyen. He plays the role of the evil sadistic captain who follows out the French colonel’s orders with a coolness that Fonzie couldn’t even match. During the fight sequences, where everyone is going balls out, Dustin moves like he’s in slow motion. I started to call him "the Terminator" because nothing was stopping him. The only thing I didn’t like is how they made him wig out when the French called his mother a whore. They made him beat up a cement wall, and the wall didn’t win. It didn’t fit the character but it did come in useful at the end. The fighting style was called Le Fung Quin, and I do apologize if I hacked those words right there, but on the Extras, which is a separate DVD, Johnny Tri Nguyen is interviewed and this is the style he said they were using. It’s all ass-kicking to me and the energy brought to this film by the cast and crew never fades.
This movie was put together well and all the actors played their parts with a true passion. Being it's a DVD I had the option to either read subtitles or get it dubbed in English. Hell yeah I dubbed it and I’m not worried if I lost anything in translation because I would still be reading the English on the screen. This is why they give you the option. The Extras feature interviews with Johnny, Dustin, and Veronica along with a Martial Arts Demonstration by Johnny.
If this movie had played on my TV 20 some odd years ago on a Sunday afternoon, it too would have sent me outside with my younger brother and friends to recreate what we saw. The Rebel is a statement from the Vietnamese film community and it’s a loud and ass-kicking one. Watch for more films like this coming from Dragon Dynasty, powerful and poignant.