Asian action movies set in modern day usually fall into one of two categories. They’re either loaded with bone breaking, skin slapping, fist pumping fight scenes, or they’re chock full of bullet ballets, armed standoffs, and gun fights. Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen fit in the former category while the latter is home to the work of Johnnie To and others. There’s some crossover here and there, but for the most part the films seem content to focus on one action style or the other.
Vietnamese director Le Thanh Son chose to ignore that memo for his debut and has instead filled Clash (aka Bay Rong) with an equal amount of blisteringly fast fist fights and flesh shredding gunfights. This is a good thing. He also chose to let his characters talk a bit too much. This is a bad thing.
Trinh (Veronica Ngo) is a mercenary who works for a mobster named Black Dragon (Hoang Phuc). He “rescued” her from a life of forced prostitution years ago and is holding her daughter as collateral until she can pay off this debt through a series of jobs. Her latest assignment has her tasked with stealing a very valuable briefcase (well, it’s probably the contents that hold the most value) so she assembles a team and sets out after the prize. One of her team members is actually an undercover cop named Quan (Johnny Nguyen) who’s looking to secure the case and arrest Black Dragon. Fists, bullets, and sparks will fly as Trinh and Quan work towards the same goal for different reasons and maybe knock boots along the way.
Plot and characters established, the action kicks in to high gear, and this is where the movie proves itself worthy of the Awesome Asian Action moniker. The team tries to acquire the case via peaceful/illegal means, but the exchange goes to hell and erupts in a hail of gunfire. Pistols and AK-47s spit fire and lead into walls, dirt, and flesh until everyone runs out of ammo and is forced to man up and throw down. Well, Trinh skips the manning up part and cuts right to the ass kicking, and as fantastic as Ngo looks standing still she’s even more impressive launching spin kicks, cleavage bombs, and flying take-downs (like the one seen in the pic above).
Not to be outdone, the even more talented (but far less attractive) Nguyen displays speed and agility he hasn’t shown since… well since his last action film (Force Of Five). He’s fast, has fantastic reach, and never met a bad guy he couldn’t lock between his calves and force down to the ground. Nguyen also wrote the script for Clash so it’s a good thing he has his acting/action skills to fall back on in the future.
No I don’t. The script’s basic setup is fine, but it suffers from some highly noticeable pacing issues that appear like clock-work after each big action set-piece. It’d be okay if things happened or the plot moved forward in the downtime, but instead we’re subjected to “deeply emotional” conversations and “emotionally powerful” flashbacks. They do work as a breather between the action, but as filler it drags the momentum and adrenaline levels down further than they should.
But for every talky scene that loses viewers to melodramatic mumblings there are three of four action packed beat downs that knock viewers back into their seats. And that’s really the point of an action film isn’t it?
Clash is available on region2 DVD from Revolver Entertainment and can be ordered from Amazon UK.
The Upside: Veronica Ngo is insanely attractive and is a believable ass kicker; Johnny Nguyen is less attractive but kicks even more ass; martial arts and gunplay are both exciting and well choreographed; darker than most action films; Asian action films set in modern day are becoming more and more hard to find
The Downside: Main plot feels convoluted at times thanks to flashbacks; pacing between action scenes drags a bit as characters have the nerve to talk to each other