STUDIO: Vivendi Entertainment
MSRP: $15.99
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

The Pitch

It’s sort of a Vietnamese Ronin, with a lot more martial arts.

The Humans

Director: Le Thanh Son, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Ngo Thanh Van, Hieu Hien, Hoang Phuc Nguyen, Lam Minh Thang

The Nutshell

Trinh, codenamed Phoenix (Ngo) is a female mob enforcer who must complete a number of jobs for her boss, Hac Long (Hoang Phuc Nguyen), in order to secure the release of her daughter.  The last job entails rounding up a small group of mercenaries to steal a laptop that can be used to hack into a defense satellite from a group of French businessmen.  The hard-nosed Trinh gathers together four men and codenames them Hawk, who is a young man known to her; Ox, a joking and stocky oaf; Snake, a shifty underworld type (aka Cang), and Quan (Tri Nguyen), a tall and mysterious operative who knows his way around weapons and tactics.  When the job goes bad and they’re betrayed, Trinh and Quan must find the laptop before a host of various groups get their hands on it, while seeking revenge in the process.

"Can you believe that dirty shit between Barnes and Elias back there?" "I told Elias about Barnes but would he listen? Nooo..."

The Lowdown

Clash very much does remind of a Vietnamese Ronin in that it’s a surprisingly solid story with spectacular martial arts and stunt work and some good performances by the main stars, who are athletic as all get out.  I was unfamiliar with Johnny Tri Nguyen before this flick, but I definitely need to brush up on my Vietnamese, because the guy’s a great performer, one who can hold up the dramatic end of the deal as much as he certainly can the martial arts.  Same with Ngo Thanh Van (aka Veronica Ngo): she’s beautiful, tough and very much an equal to Nguyen in every respect.  The entire movie is loaded with incredible fight scenes that aren’t included just to have some mandatory fist of fury action but come naturally to the story, which itself is well-put-together and includes a multitude of unsavory characters and plenty of double-crossings and treachery.

"Bad move, bringing a wushu to a gunkata fight..."

The story centers on Trinh and Quan, who are two members of a team thrown together by Hac Long, aka Black Dragon, in order to steal a laptop with defense access that’s worth millions.  Trinh has personal reasons for wanting the mission to succeed, namely, she wants out of the crime game and her boss won’t let her out, nor release her daughter to her, until she completes the job.  Quan is more than he seems, but seems to know his way around tactical situations.  The other three, Hawk, Ox and Snake are hired muscle with their own agendas.  The first thing they have to do is broker a deal for some guns, but that soon goes to shit when one of the team members runs afoul of the head weapons dealer and they all have to fight their way out of the situation.

"No man has ever held me like this before." "WTF?!"

Next, they do a recon on the group of French, which entails a tango, as any good undercover mission does.  When they make their move on the French, that situtation ends even worse than the weapons deal, and one of the team members betrays them for the case.  From there, Trinh and Quan have to use their various resources to get a line on the team member with the case, and get it back before Black Dragon, the French, some other gangsters and the police land it.  In the interim, Trinh and Quan develop a relationship of trust…and skin…and really, the whole thing generally plays out similarly to Ronin, but it definitely doesn’t come off as any type of ripoff.  Rather, just good solid crime action with a lot of players, a lot of fighting and gunplay.

Production values are solid, and director Le gives the film a gritty, washed out look that translates the flavor of Saigon nicely.  The fights are fantastic, with a definite MMA slant to them, and very importantly, no wire-fu.  Also, Le isn’t afraid to stick with a master shot for much of the action, and there’s – very thankfully – not much in the way of quick cutting to hype the battles.  The performers make them look good on their own physical merits, which are considerable.  In fact, Tri Nguyen does this one mid-air triple kick where he takes out three dudes that’s virtually jaw dropping.  Ngo gives as good as Tri Nguyen and her Trinh is very much a Vietnamese La Femme Nikita.  No special measures have to be taken to make her look like a badass, as she’s verty capable of doing so on her own.  Plus, holy hell is she gorgeous, and she can bring it with the drama as well.  She’s a singer and model in Asia and has appeared in a handful of films to date, so definitely hoping to see more from her.  She previously worked with Tri Nguyen  in another film called The Rebel (Dong Mau Anh Hung).

Clash actually was finished two years ago, but I’m figuring some kind of distribution hassles led to the delayed release, because this isn’t some film that sits on a shelf for two years because they don’t know what to do with it.  Clash is a surprisingly good film that will satisfy both crime drama and martial arts enthusiasts.

The Package

Sound is good.  There’s the original Vietnamese Dolby 5.1 with English subtitles, and a dubbed English track that’s not as loud.  I started out watching with the English track, but the film is best enjoyed with the original language and the reading.  Visuals are crisp and the transfer nice.  In terms of special features, there’s a production interview with Tri Nguyen and Ngo, as well as another with the rest of the cast, a featurette called Anatomy of a Fight Scene, a music video and theatrical trailer.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars