You’ve seen Clash before. The movie was the number one box office hit in its native Vietnam last year, and it’s immediately obvious why. It’s got the feel of every successful American summer blockbuster ever made, big and dumb as can be, but with the added spice of a kung fu flick. It’s like someone found a Mad Libs version of an action movie script and
filled in every word with “BADASS VIETNAM SHIT”.

The story, such as it is:

The stunning Ngo Thanh Van stars as Trinh, a mercenary who’s stuck in the Vietnamese crime underworld against her wishes. A crime lord has kidnapped her only daughter and refuses to release her till she’s completed a few missions for him. She’s been complacent so far but is getting tired of his constant requests with no end in sight. So when he tells her that he has one last job for her, she’s doubtful yet optimistic.

Trinh sets out to hire a group of mercenaries, making damn sure to get every single type of stereotypical soldier in the list. She’s got the short and fat comic relief, the shady guy that certainly won’t turn on them in the second act, the naive kid, the strong but silent good-looking guy. She of course starts to fall for the last one, a man named Quan (screenwriter/stuntman Johnny Nguyen) who’s going through his own issues. The duo end up bonding with their little motley crew and inevitably have to start trusting one another when things go south and people start betraying them. Along the way dozens of people get shot and/or get their heads kicked in while the crowd cheers these incredibly attractive killers on.

Let’s be honest, there’s only one reason to see a movie like this, and that’s for the fight choreography. In that respect the film does not disappoint. Pretty much every action scenes begins with a gun fight and transforms into a fist fight when both sides run out of bullets. (Really, it happens a half dozen times.) But the fights are brutal and realistic, utilizing a lot of muay thai and Brazilian jujitsu- it frequently becomes a ground fight. I counted three arm bars!

Just take a look at the trailer for an idea of how great some of the stunts are.

So yes, there’s some amazing action, but the scenes in between will surely test your patience. Every scene is familiar to you if you’ve seen a mainstream action film in the last 30 years. Betrayals, double crossings, PG-13 love scenes, a cartoonish villian- this one’s got it all. Even worse, during the scenes with Trinh talking about her daughter the melodrama gets pumped on so thick that you can hardly see what’s going on. It gets very hard to sit through, even though the action is generally quite worth it. (Johnny Nguyen was the primary stuntman for the first two Spider-man flicks, after all.)

A good martial arts flick that would be improved with moderate use of the fast forward button.

6.5 out of 10

Clash played at the Tribeca Film Festival and has been picked up by XYZ Films.