Strutting Our Stuff
I suppose one of the best ways to plunge into the cinema of another country, is for action junkies like myself to see what they have to offer for the genre. I haven't seen a Vietnamese film before Clash, so it's anyone's guess how it would have turned out, though there were plenty of positive reviews for other Vietnamese action flicks such as The Rebel, which also starred leading man Johnny Nguyen, a veteran in his part of the world, who also served as the writer of this film. It shouldn't be that bad, right?
For the most parts, the film was mighty entertaining, telling the story of a female mercenary code named Phoenix (the stunningly beautiful Thanh Van Ngo) who had assembled a rag-tag group of peers to go on missions, one of whom happens to be Johnny Nguyen's Quan with whom she shares a relationship with. Her objective through these dangerous missions is to ultimately save her daughter from the clutches of her evil employer. So much for mother's love, since Phoenix was a one time prostitute who got taken off the streets to do her employer's dirty work, complete with a quick montage of her training.
That's as far as the story goes, with enough twists and turns and double crossings to keep the audience engaged in pretty much a flimsy plot, designed only to keep our characters floating from fight sequence to fight sequence, which is truly the draw of the film, influenced in many ways by Hollywood and Hong Kong action cinema from yesterdays. I have to admit even if there were shades of other films in this, at least this effort had made it through to production with an international crew assisting to spruce up production values, where in Singapore we're still lacking in playing catch up.
Killer moves got designed for Phoenix such as her thigh wraparound the enemy's neck or upper body before giving it a final fatal twist, but to get there, the fight choreography for most of the characters can get a little bit dull and repetitive. Everything will start off with the firing of auto or semi automatic weapons, and when the finite rounds get expended, everyone will turn into Jackie Chan - come to think of it most of Jackie's earlier action films were similarly designed - and relies on the punches and kicks to dispatch opponents. And it does get repetitive as mentioned with the usual punch-punch-kick combo moves that one's enemies could predict with every extended fight.
But thanks to some of the Mixed Martial Arts sequence, Clash at least attempted some variation, and without the use of wires and CG, the fights all look authentic and as our anti-heroes pit their skills against others they get into a battle with. However the finale was a bit of a cop out, which I suspect could have been influenced by test audiences to give it a more positive spin perhaps, since a plot element of a chunky inventory appears magically when in the first place it called for a more tragic and emotional convergence which had to give way.
Still, Clash offers quite a lot especially for action junkies wishing to keep tabs on what's on offer in our neighbour's cinema, and from what I have seen here with its charismatic leads who are not only good lookers but are able to handle their battles with aplomb, we may be in for more treats if more films improve upon what's available now, and could become major contenders for action films that can draw a worldwide audience. Would have been a perfect screening if not for the botched audio at The Arts House.