Bui Doi Cho Lon


Director: Charlie Nguyen
Year: 2013
Rating: 7.0
Country: Vietnam

This is pretty much an 80-minute street rumble with a few stops along the way for some drama and tears. All in one night. By the end of the night everybody is banged up, dead or broken. After having seen two mediocre action films in the past couple of days - one from Vietnam and the other from Thailand - I had no expectations of anything very good but this surprised me. The action is brutal, deadly, compelling and well-choreographed. Nothing real fancy - just mano y mano fighting with knives, feet, hands, elbows and anything else that was available. It was like an old-fashioned Hong Kong triad film except it takes place in the backstreets and abandoned buildings of Saigon. This Vietnamese production was directed by Charlie Nguyen and though it has that TV video sheen to it he does a good job of not only giving us more action than a bumper car arena but is able to individualize a number of the characters.

It is a simple enough plot. Lam (Ha Hien) decides to run away with the very alluring Huong (Bich Phuong Huynh). Trouble is she is the girlfriend of the gang leader, Tai (Hoang Phuc Nguyen) and he wants her back and Lam dead. Lam realizes that the only safe place they can go is to his brother though they have had a falling out. His brother Hung (Long Dien) is the gang leader of the Cho Lon area and when he decides to give his brother shelter, it means war. And gang war is what we get as these two gangs fight and fight till the very end.

The biggest star though is Johnny Nguyen who has been in a bunch of martial arts films and he has charisma to spare in this film. He is the real deal with top skills in many martial arts forms. His lengthy fight with Hung in a closed in apartment might be the highlight of the film as the two of them just let loose. For action fans only. I read elsewhere that this was banned by the Vietnamese government for the gang violence and never got a release. The copy I watched was fan-subbed. This might explain why this was never picked up by any one or given an English name because it is better than a lot of action crap that is.