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Showing 1-10 of 37 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 47 reviews
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 2, 2010
THE REBEL is one of those rare martial arts pictures in that the story content isn't just there to frame the action sequences. The plot is straightforward but has substance to it, and the three lead actors are given intense parts to play. It's a Colonial period piece, set in 1922 in French-occupied Vietnam, and the Frenchies were so cruelly subjugating that the impoverished peasants were forced to rebel. And is it me or does the white man's burden tend to cheese off all the other nationalities? The froggies were so foul back then that, in the audio commentary, Asian cinema expert Bey Logan, informed that Frenchmen yet linger in Vietnam today, cracks a joke: "If I was French I would have left town."

Le Van Cuong (Johnny Tri Nguyen) is suave and French-educated. He wears stylish white suits and he's an agent of the colonial government, seeking to snuff out seeds of insurrection. He works for the sadistic, power-mad security chief Sy (Dustin Nguyen), and while they're not exactly friends they seem to work well together. Until, of course, a beautiful girl drives a wedge between them. The girl is Vo (Veronica Ngo, a.k.a. Thanh Van Ngo) and she's the fiery daughter of the rebel leader. When Vo is captured, Cuong helps to spring her from prison and off they go on the run, pursued by a venomous Sy and his minions.

This picture apparently shattered film box offices in Vietnam, and, sure, why not? THE REBEL boasts polished production values which lend to the viewer a definite sense of place and time, Vietnam circa 1922. THE REBEL was done under a modest budget (although this budget is huge by Vietnamese standards), and maybe you'd be startled to know that they only had two vintage cars to work with and that they used these two cars exhaustively throughout the film, under several guises. Shot heavily on location in Vietnam, there are many beautiful countryside sceneries to soak in. And the acting is really solid, maybe even surprisingly solid. Johnny Tri Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American martial artist and a Hollywood stunt man, except that he shows real promise as the conflicted main lead. He easily demonstrates that he's just more than a guy who can kick all pretty. Having said that, his aerial moves are really nice.

The bad guy is played - and don't laugh - by Dustin Nguyen, he of 21 JUMP STREET fame. And I said don't laugh because Dustin Nguyen exudes a twisted and surprisingly menacing presence. His character makes use of the "Iron Shirt" discipline (Dustin's own description) which renders his flesh impenetrable to blades and blows.

But the real find is Thanh Van Ngo. A singer-model who had no prior background in martial arts, Veronica trained for several grueling months before shooting the film. When you see her on screen she looks like she's been kicking people viciously in the face all her life. Veronica Ngo has got amazing screen presence, the looks, and the martial arts skill, and I don't think there's been a male and female lead couple this badasss since Jackie Chan teamed up with Michelle Yeoh in POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP. I was astounded to learn that Veronica broke her foot during filming and, in some scenes, had to prop herself up on an apple crate.

Okay, there are spots when the film drags. But the story overall is compelling and I've mentioned the good acting, and there's enough nationalistic fervor here that I could totally see why this was big whoop in Vietnam. The martial arts is superb. The cast barely does any wirework. Johnny Tri Nguyen and Veronica Ngo do their own stunts (not counting when Veronica broke her foot and had to have a walking double). Johnny Nguyen incorporates Muay Thai and wushu techniques and makes it a point to feature moves from the Vietnamese martial arts discipline of Vovinam. Nguyen's aerial moves are from the Vovinam arsenal, and I love Veronica's signature move which is this scissor headlock she imposes on her opponent with her legs before she torques him to the ground, and in the middle of this there's this neat thing she does where she spreads her arms wide like a butterfly. Another thing the film does well is maintaining a realism in terms of how combat would go when people bring guns to a martial arts fight. There are overwhelming casualties when folks try to swarm armed soldiers, and yet it's done believably whenever an unarmed guy does manage to close in on the guy(s) with the firearms.

By the way, disgustingly, that was a real eye in that one scene.

This Dragon Dynasty release comes with two DVDs. Disc 1 has the feature presentation and the quite entertaining audio commentary from stars Johnny Tri Nguyen, Dustin Tri Nguyen, and Veronica Ngo, and Asian cinema expert Bey Logan who asks all the right questions. These guys were having fun recording this.

Disc 2 has:

- The Making Of featurette - in which we learn, among other fascinating things, that the blood splatter on Johnny Tri Nguyen's face caused by his shooting of an assassin is actually caused by some guy off camera, on cue, spitting red liquid into his face (00:37:37 minutes)

- Three in-depth interviews: "Empty Hand, Noble Heart" - the interview with Johnny Tri Nguyen (00:31:49 minutes); "Cry for Freedom" - an interview with Veronica Ngo (00:33:28); and "The Dark Destroyer" - an interview with Dustin Tri Nguyen (00:35:22)

- "One Man Army" is a martial arts demonstration by Johnny Tri Nguyen as he talks about and recreates some of the best Vovinam moves from the movie (00:03:18)

- "Iron Jacket" is a deleted scene from the Preview Cut of THE REBEL which has a shirtless Dustin Nguyen going thru some form of kata (00:00:41)

- A Behind-The-Scenes Gallery (with eleven brief featurettes) focusing on the film's action/stunt sequences as the cast & crew work out the logistics. The "Take One for the Team" clip shows one stunt guy getting repeatedly bloodied by Vernoica Ngo during the jail break scene.
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on October 30, 2008
These days I'm more of a skeptic with modern day martial arts releases, as many of them are heavy on guns, light on actual martial arts. The Rebel was a great surprise with a steady stream of fast-paced hand to hand fights, with points for originality in the coreography. The only reason I don't give it 5 stars is that personally I'm not a fan of a lot of editing during a fight scene. I like to watch the fight straight on, too many cuts take me out of the fight, especially since I'm one who likes to watch the techniques closely. It wasn't a huge problem in The Rebel, but a few times was too much for me. Still, there was enough true martial arts all through the film to make it very much worth it! Decent acting, and an actually good story sealed the deal. I'd recommend it to any martial arts fan!
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on October 25, 2009
This is an exhilirating and highy entertaining movie. A raging unstoppable river of [...]-kicking. The biggest box-office hit in Vietnamese history and one of the year's most talked-about films. The REBEL is a sweeping martial arts epics set in the 20's French-occupied Vietnam. Johnny Tri Ngujen (the Protector) starts as an elite double agent tasked with taking down his own country's freedom fighters. However, when he meets a beautiful rebel (pop star Veronica Ngo), he rethinks his loyalthy to the oppressive French regime and fights back against his sadistic captain (Dustin Tri Nguyen, TV's 21 Jumped Street). Featuring an acrobatic fighting style rarely seen in the US and an absolutely gripping story, THE REBEL is entertaining mix of martial arts and historical drama. CAVEAT: I looked at the movie over and over again because of its unique martial arts style. An article that Vietnamese martial style (yes it has a name, as Israel martial art also has a name but I forget)is an improvemnent of "Wing Chun" appeared sometime ago in TIME magazine. But, Wing Chun seldom kicks above the belt and in order to maintain balance, acrobatics is largely avoided. Tae Kwon Do, which is 70% kicking has a similar but distinctly different kick. My best bet is that the kicking style of Vietnamese martial art is derived from Savate.The closest I have seen such kicking is from the later part of "Kyokushinkai Karate Complete", a martial arts renowned for its brutality.
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on May 16, 2009
I wanted to see this movie for a couple of reasons, I love action movies and I'm a huge fan of Dustin Nguyen. I remember him from his days on 21 Jumpstreet, opposite Johnny Depp(who I also adore). Dustin has generally always played honorable characters. His role in The Rebel as Sy is breath taking to watch. Nguyen gives the character such charisma, unpredictability and sly wit that you almost forget he's the bad guy. Out of all the actors in this movie, I'd say Dustin Nguyen is by far the most enjoyable to watch. He gives a remarkable performance. Even with salt and pepper hair, Mr Nguyen still makes me melt.

The movie is extremely well written and very well acted. There is other eye candy in the movie:Johnny Nguyen(no relation) who plays Sy's rival and the beautiful Veronica Ngo. This movie was an incredible escape for me from the minute it started untl it ended. Do yourself a favor, buy this one. If you rent it, you'll end up buying it. It's THAT GOOD!
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on September 19, 2009
This movie is from Dragon Dynasty, enough said right? Wrong! If you are a martial arts film afficionado, you will enjoy this flick because you will watch it from beginning to end. The movie lets you know right away that it is not the normal chop-sockey flick. The Ngyuen's, (almost everyone in the flick), kick [...] all over the screen; from fake out no-shadow kicks, to brain jarring elbow smashes to the cranium! When you get to a part that makes you scream, "That must be the best scene!", it will sneak up and spin-kick itself back onto your 'watch-again-and-get-ready-to-push-pause' list! Don't let this one pass you by. Take a minute to read the ads on the dvd case, and then prepare to watch those descriptions come to life. Excellent entertainment.
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on October 5, 2013
This movie has Interesting unusual moves that you don't see in others. You don't see a lot of cuts, and the moves look realistic. The quality of the movie is also very good. The main actors and actress acting are great and attractive. Great movie!
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on December 3, 2012
the rebel is about the sruggles of the people in north veinam when the french had occupied it.if you like martial arts this movie has plenty.iwas really pleased with this movie.i find that asian movies are surpassing american movies.they do not have very much special effects and most of the stars do not use stunt men. i would reccomend this movie to thosewho like action.
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on September 20, 2009
I wasn't expecting much from this movie, but I was intrigued because I haven't seen many Vietnamese movies, and though I enjoy martial arts films I'd never seen a Vietnamese one. Actually, according to Veronica Ngo in her extended interview on the bonus disk, this is the first. But, though it might be the first martial arts film with a Vietnamese director and cast, it ranks with the best that HK has produced. An interesting story, great characters and action, wonderfully executed.
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on January 6, 2016
This is the coolest action movie I've seen come out of Vietnam. It's in Vietnamese with subtitles so it's definitely accessible to western viewers. Give it a look.
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on August 6, 2013
Wonderful acting by both Johnny Tri Nguyen and Veronica Ngo. Very fresh and exciting fight scenes by both w/out the aid of wires. Great story. Very attractive couple with genuine chemistry. Worth the price. : )
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