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CLASH follows Trinh, a mercenary, assigned to recover a stolen hard drive containing codes to Vietnam's first satellite, the VINASAT.1. She creates an ensemble of specialists to regain control of the hard drive before it is sold to the Chinese Triad. Lies and betrayal unfold as Trinh uncovers the truth behind her squad. Who can she trust?
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You have a female lead (in Ronin it was the sexy Natascha McElhone; in Clash, Ngo Thanh Van) organizing an all male crew (in Ronin headed by De Niro; in Clash, headed by Johnny Tri Nguyen) to steal a package from a bunch of bad guys (in Clash, a group of French men; in Ronin, a bunch of Russians), in order to give it to a bunch of bad guys (in Clash, another Vietnamese guy who is holding Ngo Thanh Van's daughter captive as a bargaining chip; in Ronin, to the Irish Republican Army).
In each film, the first assignment is to approach an unknown group of gun runners to purchase weapons to use against those holding the package. Both fail, although with different results.
Next, both male leads choose to check out the speed and decisiveness of the opposing team's security force. With both the French and the Russians staying at hotels, De Niro and McElhone in Ronin and Nguyen and Thanh Van in Clash each pair up as romantic couples to approach the teams to cause a diversion to see how good they are. Pictures are taken of the melee, examined, and a decision is made how to approach.
When they finally get the package, in each film one of the guys of the group turns traitor and steals the package, running off with it to make his own deal with another rival gang, in Ronin, to sell it back to the Russians, in Clash, to sell it to the Triads.
It is only at this point where the movies finally start to take divergent paths and Clash finally breaks out on its own to end the final third of the film by creating a whole new ending, which is kind of exciting.
As for the martial arts aspect of the film, I was kind of disappointed. I mean, on the whole, it looked OK, but many times it was just too silly, I guess is the word I'm looking for. They would hit each other and not react to the hit. Although sometimes they would get kicked in the chest and fly back 4 or 5 feet, other times a person would get socked in the face and not flinch and then punch the other person right back. One time Ngo Thanh Van got hit over the head with a full bottle of wine and didn't react at all, but just kept fighting. If this was a parody or something like a Jackie Chan movie, I wouldn't even bring this up. But this was a very serious film, and it just seemed like sloppily choreographed duels. Many times a bad guy would be in the process of attacking a good guy and get side-swiped by another guy, and all I kept thinking was, "Geez, guys, don't you have any peripheral vision?"
I know I am an odd duck here, at least so far as my reviews re: the action sequences are concerned. All I can suggest is, for those who really want to own this film, I would tell them to rent it first from Netflix or Blockbuster or wherever, before buying it outright. Then if you agree with others, at least you know ahead of time how great the film is. If you feel like me, however, you haven't lost that much time or money.
The plot is pretty straightforward, but the competing interests of the characters and their resulting double crosses of each other lead to enough twists to lift the story in to the better-than-average category for a martial arts movie.
That said, the plot doesn't get in the way much of the action, and the fights are really good. I can't think of any fights that looked like they used wires, which is good given Clash's grittier feel. While there are guns and knives used, the martial arts remain the focus in all the fights. The only downside to the guns is that it's a bit laughable what bad shots the characters must be in order to miss some of their targets!
Nguyen remains a strong performer, with a good deal of screen charisma beyond his skills as a martial artist. Some of his spinning kicks in this movie are especially impressive. Also, both he and costar Thanh Van Ngo (also from The Rebel) engage in more submission moves than I recall from recent martial arts movies. That was cool.
Downsides? There are two big ones. The romance between Nguyen and Ngo is extremely forced and, since it takes up a good deal of time in the middle third of the film, that's a problem. I didn't feel any sparks that suggested these two characters could overcome the obvious trust issues enough to fall in love. As a result, the love story is a big minus. It slows the movie down too much, despite some of the additional complications it introduces (no spoilers here).
The other downside is that Le Thanh Son's direction ends up spending a bit too much time on shots of his stars smoking, drinking, and otherwise 'looking tough' and this makes them come off a bit like dorky poseurs. The worst example of this is when Nguyen and Ngo tango in a club. The director's (or scriptwriter) is trying to be stylish, but it just seems out of place. Exactly when did a woman who spent her teens in a brothel, was a mother, and then lived as a mercenary find time to learn to tango? Plus, the obvious use of a dancing double for Nguyen who clearly couldn't 'cut a rug' if you gave him scissors makes the whole thing really silly.
While these flaws definitely slow the pace of the movie down in places, especially in the middle, Clash is a great ride. I have yet to see Nguyen give a bad performance or dish out a bad film, so here's hoping his star continues to rise.
Here's the scoop. Phoenix (played by the stunning Thanh Van Ngo) had a twin sister who was murdered by a big time thug. Said thug now has Phoenix's daughter and uses her as leverage to have Phoenix pull off a series of jobs. The final job involves stealing a laptop, from some French dudes, that contains high level satellite info. A guy on her crew, unbeknownst to her, is an undercover cop. Said heist goes south and the doo-doo hits the fan.
This is not a great flick by any means but it moves very steadily and has some good gun play and martial arts fight scenes. Phoenix is one good looking woman and she can fight. During the fight scenes she looks like she knows the time of day. They spend as much camera on her as they do the dudes. Some of the plot points in the earlier part of the flick don't rise above the fray but a few things happen in the third act that spice things up. Much of what is happening in this flick are the two leads. I couldn't take my eyes off Phoenix, but the undercover cop, Quan, is handsome in his own right, and the developing relationship between the two helps keep the viewer involved. A Tango scene, with him in a suit and her in a gorgeous red dress, is worth the price of admission. One of the other guys in her crew is a short, stocky guy put in for comic relief. It sad he gets knocked off when he does. I think that character could have used a lot more screen time.
All that being said, this is a decent watch. Not the best of its ilk but well worth the time to view it.