Film: Clash **
Release date: 21st February 2011
Running time: 94 mins
Director: Le Thanh Son
Starring: Johnny Nguyen, Veronica Ngo
Genre: Action/Martial Arts
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Vietnamese action movies are hard to come by, but you’ll recognise the work of leading man Johnny Nguyen even if the name isn’t familiar to you. His filmography consists of stunt work on the likes of Spiderman, Serenity, Jarhead and the upcoming X-Men: First Class. He knows how to handle himself then, but you would expect that of somebody with over 18 years of experience in Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Japanese Aikido. He also takes a writers credit for his work on Clash, but lets try to remain positive for the time being.
Trinh (Thanh Van Ng), a beautiful and deadly mercenary, must complete a series of organized crime jobs for her boss in order to win the release of her kidnapped daughter. She hires several mercenaries to help, including Quan (Johnny Nguyen), who she also becomes attracted to. Trinh and Quan's relationship becomes complicated as it becomes evident that their motivations are not the same. That’s ok though, because explanations are hard to come by from anyone in this latest action extravaganza. Nobody goes to a Johnny Nguyen movie expecting award winning writing though, what we really want to see is some kick ass action choreography and a dazzling array of stunt work. It’s a shame then that fledgling director Le Thanh Son makes us work so damn hard for it.
The plot is perhaps confused, but then again, perhaps not. It’s hard to tell. The characters converse in such a roundabout fashion that it’s hard to tell if anybody knows what’s really going on. The plot revolves around a suitcase that could do a lot of damage if it falls into the wrong hands; confusion reigns when we attempt to work out just whose hands are unfit. It can’t be the team of mercenaries, even though they’re clearly not the good hands either, but we don’t have a lot to go on here so we’ll just have to make things up as we go along.
Besides, Trinh is only in it for her daughter so I guess we’ll side with her, at least she doesn’t talk in an assuming fashion. We should also take into consideration the fact that she's pretty much the only actress in the entire movie, so it’s a good job she’s incredibly hot. That’s not me being shallow – red hot femme fatales are a staple of the action genre.
It’s probably best if you don’t think about the plot too much, and thankfully the opening exchange between Trinh and her boss will make that very easy for you. They talk about the game of chess for a while, it’s all very pretentious and boring, and as you might expect by now, bares no relevance to the actual plot. In fact, the entire movie is littered with scenes that act as filler. Of course Trinh and Quan are going to fall in love, of course they’re going to bump uglies – none of which I mind if its delivered in an entertaining fashion. It’s not – Clash is ultimately a film that succeeds or fails on the quality of its action.
We’ve already established that Thanh Van Ng is hot; thankfully she’s one hell of a martial artist as well. Thanh Van Ng and Johnny Nguyen light up the screen with screen presence and visual intensity, delivering a handful of close-contact set pieces that are truly convincing.
The action sequences are tightly choreographed, brutal and believable, but there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before. Car chases and shoot-outs are few and far between, and momentary surges of adrenaline fail to satisfy in an action movie so mundane. If you’re going to call your movie Clash, don’t drown the production in pedestrian storytelling and meaningless dialogue. Cut to the chase, break some heads and make a lot of noise.
Thanh Van Ng and Johnny Nguyen will go on to do better things I’m sure, but Clash fails to deliver on every conceivable level. Confusing, listless and devoid of action spectacle, it’s a martial arts movie that rarely finds its footing. All the more disturbing when you consider the wasted potential of its rising stars.