THE REBEL is a hard-biting martial arts and gunplay actioner from Vietnam, the first of its kind from the country and a showcase for the phenomenal talents of international stunt actor Johnny Nguyen. Armed with a wide array of dynamic martial arts skills, the actor teams with his equally impressive discovery, singer and model-turned-martial arts starlet Veronica Ngo, as they take on Dustin Nguyen (FINISHING THE GAME) and French occupiers in 1920s-era Colonial Vietnam.

Charlie Nguyen ably directs an impressive first script from his brother Johnny, backed up by a core team of Hollywood-trained crew members. It’s a nationalist story that does for Vietnam what Lo Wei’s FIST OF FURY did for China and THE PROTECTOR did for Thailand.

Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) starts out as an agent of the colonial government working to quell a rebellion fueled by injustices committed by French occupiers and the desire to be free from their rule. Growing weary of bloodshed, he opts to free Thuy (Ngo Thanh Van), a female rebel caught following an attempted political assassination. This act turns him into a wanted man and he becomes the target of his old partner, Sy (Dustin Nguyen), a sadistic agent hoping that loyalty to his French superiors will give him greater power.

As Cuong struggles to come to terms with his violent past and Thuy learns to trust him, Sy shadows them on the pair’s flight back to a small village where Thuy’s father and fellow rebels are hiding out. It is here that Cuong and the other rebels make their stand against Sy and his French allies.

For a modest $1.6 million production, a lot by Vietnamese film standards, THE REBEL boasts very impressive period design from costumes to settings and vehicles. Imagery is dominated by a dusty, sepia tone that enhances the serious tone of the story and grounded, realistic action bereft of wirework.

Martial arts action in THE REBEL is an intriguing mixture of techniques that reflect action director Johnny Nguyen’s varied training and experience working in Hollywood, Thailand and Hong Kong. With THE PROTECTOR being his most recent work previous to THE REBEL, Johnny noticeably incorporates a variety of Muay Thai strikes using elbows, knees and front extension kicks. He uses wushu in various spinning kicks and in some bladed weapons work. There are also more military or modern takedowns and grappling used that look similar to MMA and the Keysi Fighting Method.

Nguyen also makes an effort to feature more unique Vietnamese fighting styles, notably an art known as Vovinam. His co-star Ngo Thanh Van repeatedly performs a distinctive scissor headlock that traps her opponent’s neck between her legs and brings him to the ground to crush his throat or choke him. The move looks great and she appears to perform it flawlessly. It’s a move that hasn’t been used much in martial arts cinema.

Regarding Ngo, she is arguably the real star of the movie. Not since Michelle Yeoh have I seen a female screen fighter with the triple threat of strong presence, beauty and killer moves. Johnny Nguyen picked her after exhaustive casting for what is clearly a very demanding role. He spent several months training her specifically for this film and the results are fantastic. I would love to see her paired up with or go against CHOCOLATE star JeeJa Yanin. The two appear comparable in skill.

As lead villain, Dustin Nguyen performs his duty well. He comes across little too much like Agent Smith from the MATRIX films but is effectively menacing and manages his action sequences opposite Johnny and Ngo with skill. His movements are stiffer than his co-stars but work for the character. He’s reserved in personality and movement so action and acting complement each other.

There are a few problems with the movie. Johnny relies too much on flying spinning kicks, particularly in situations where it doesn’t seem logical or appropriate given the often direct nature of attacks during some scenes. He strikes an awkward balance between military-style combat and flashier performance moves throughout the movie.

The plot is simple and straight forward with thriller-like twists and turns akin to a modern-day spy movie like THE BOURNE IDENTITY. It’s not as sophisticated though and supporting cast members could have been given a little more depth. Initially, the movie gives the impression that it could be a very involved and intriguing political actioner with a complex hero but that promise falls apart as the plot largely devolves into a more conventional and personal conflict. It’s interesting to see how dialogue gradually thins out as the plot progresses. This would normally be an asset for a martial arts movie but in this case the film’s subject matter and initial presentation are compelling enough that I would have liked to have seen more verbal sparring and drama, especially given the complex nature of Johnny’s conflicted character. Charlie Nguyen appears quite capable of merging drama with action in a compelling way and the film could have benefited from a more fully fleshed out story that a larger budget would have afforded.

It has been a while since a new or recent martial arts movie has really held my interest beyond the responsibility of relaying my impressions to the world. THE REBEL did just that. It ignores the routine crime plots, smug personalities and excessive wire use that have plagued Hong Kong actioners recently. Instead, it’s a fast-moving and genuinely thrilling experience filled with visceral fighting action that recalls the glory days of Hong Kong action cinema while, like the films of Tony Jaa, it moves in its own distinctive direction. Johnny Nguyen and Veronica Ngo are the best action couple since Jackie Chan teamed up with Michelle Yeoh in POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP. Thanks to this pair, along with Dustin Nguyen and Charlie Nguyen, Vietnam is now home to world-class action filmmaking.

THE REBEL is coming to DVD in the U.S. on August 26th courtesy of The Weinstein Company. Pre-orders are available at

REVIEW: Rebel, The (2007), 7.9 out of 10 based on 8 ratings Related Topics:
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  • Hung Tran
    Please check out this site. The interview talks about Johnny Nguyen’s wife Viet Thy or Vu Lynn Cathy. He abandoned his wife with 2 kids for Ngo Thanh Van. We don’t care how good Johnny Nguyen and Ngo Thanh Van are. A good movie with an immoral mind like them is meaningless. This news is all over the internet. Johnny Nguyen is also go by the name of Minh Tri.

  • Hung Tran

    Please scrow down link below. It shows Cathy’s emails discussing how Johnny will not support her, if she speaks to the public.
    The emails were written in English.

    Before Cathy had children, she used to sing for Van Son Entertainment. She sacrificed her career to stay home with the kids, while Johnny was busy filming.

    Cathy was the last one to know about Johnny and Ngo Thanh Van’s affair. One day she accidentally found an email of Johnny’s friend
    telling him what he is doing isn’t right.

  • ke chung tinh

    I just think it’s not fair!
    You read her story, what’s about his story?

    ……but it’s just story . . . .

    Right or wrong,
    Real or not real,
    Who’s know???

    But I can tell you that the Rebel is the best Vietnamese film I have ever seen. We gotta support the filmmakers and the Vietnamese film industry. I’ll order one for myself and another for my parents to watch.


  • Do Bac Beo!

    Nhin cai mat la biet khong co hau roi, dau can phai doc!

    Viet Thy’s Fans always!

  • Bích Nga

    “Vân rất yêu Johnny, Vân không muốn làm chuyện này, nhưng hai người thật sự yêu nhau và điều này không thể tránh được. Nếu Cathy bước lui thì Vân và Johnny Trí Nguyễn sẽ tiếp tục, còn nếu Johnny Trí Nguyễn tiếp tục phấn đấu cho cuộc hôn nhân thì Vân sẽ bước lui. Nhưng Vân và Johnny Trí Nguyễn thực sự yêu nhau và nếu được như vậy, Vân sẽ cho phép Johnny Trí Nguyễn được coi chừng hai đứa con”.

    Với những lời lẽ như vậy thì N.T.V đúng là một kẻ đục nước béo cò, phải chăng nếu có thể thì cô ấy sẵn sàng kết hôn cùng người đó bất chấp dư luận bất chấp mọi thứ chỉ để đạt được cái ích kỷ mang tên “tình yêu” đó? Phải chăng người đã quá “lì đòn” trước những scandal không còn sợ phải đối mặt với scandal nữa, phải chăng là “điếc không sợ súng” ? Yêu một người như Trí Nguyễn một ngày nào đó cô ấy cũng sẽ phải chịu cảnh như Cathy mà thôi.

  • Thanh

    Sao các bạn ai cũng khăng khăng là JTN và NTV đến với nhau sau khi đã ly hôn vậy? Nếu họ không đi lại từ lâu thì sao mơi ly hôn xong, 2 người đâu có bung ra cặp nhau nhanh chóng vậy? Những người thực sư ly hôn vì không níu kéo được nữa thường mất một khoảng thời gian để lấy lại thăng bằng và tìm cho mình người khác. Nhưng ở đây, có thể thấy anh JTN đã có bồ nhí NTV trước nên mới ly dị vợ để có thể danh chính ngôn thuận cặp với NTV.

    Thêm nữa, có 1 bức thư của Cathy gởi cho bạn cách đây 1 năm (lúc đó 2 người chưa ly hôn à nha) kể rằng JTN đang đi lại với NTV và Cathy rất buồn. Tất cả điều này chứng minh rằng anh ta đã phản bội vợ con để đi với người khác. Điều đó tuy nhiều trong xã hội, nhưng biết mà làm ngơ, không lên án thì không thể được.

    Họ là người của công chúng, kiếm tiền từ công chúng thì công chúng có quyền phán xét chứ, vì hành động của họ sẽ có ảnh hưởng tới người khác, nếu họ là người bình thường thì who cares? Với lại, trước giờ JTN và NTV cứ lên báo & chụp ảnh để cả thế giời biết chuyện riêng của họ, chứng tỏ chính họ muốn thế đấy chứ?

    Cuối cùng, NTV nói chưa đọc bài bào đó thì thật là tức cười. Vậy cô ấy dựa vào đâu mà nói ‘bài viết đó không có cơ sở’ khi chưa hề đọc? Nếu bức mail đó là không có thật thì sao người ta hỏi, cô không nói: “tôi không viết như vậy?” mà chỉ nói: “có những chuyện không nên nói ra nếu chuyện đó có liên quan tới người nổi tiếng”.

    —-> Đọc cái này các bạn sẽ thâấ tôi chẳng câầ nhân danh công lý. công lý phải ở lòng người. Nếu lòng người mà còn bâấ công thì tôi chăẳg còn gì để nói cho phí lơời

  • Donny Tran

    Dustin Nguyen is one of the greatest Vietnamese/Amrican actors both in movies and real life. We loved you!

  • Phung Ho

    Did you know that in the movie (The Rebel-2007/Dong Mau Anh Hung), Johnny Nguyen’s wife Cathy took part in helping Veronica Ngo Thanh Van do her Kung Fu. She taught Ngo Thanh Van how to kick. Johnny Nguyen first met Cathy at The Temple, where she had learned her martial arts.

  • dinh nhat

    Haha….Ngo Thanh van have read her story about the Dagbladet Norweigian Newspaper posted on:

    On her blog August 6-2008, she then posted bunches of new pictures photographed with her Norweigian family, with a bigger house and a different background. If the Mr. Arvild Kristiansen, her foster father, is so wealthy then why his teeth are so yellow and crooket….duh…..duh…..

    She also saw this message posted on Vinashowbiz:

    Originally Posted by my_way
    co fai ten chuog trinh nay la ME VA QUE HUONG dung ko? ma sao ko thay sis tham gia THUY NGA ha?

    Replied by Ngo Thanh Van
    tại thúy nga hok có mời ngô thanh vân … khi nào mà ngô thanh vân hok hát cho vân sơn nữa có lẻ thúy nga mời đó bạn … hải ngoại có nhiu thế thôi …. tại vân giờ là ca sĩ độc quyền của vân sơn.

    Yeah right! Who would want to invite a homewrecker that couldn’t even sing….duh….!

    Ngo Thanh Van has taken her official website down for several days now, because she doesn’t want other people to read it:

    I noticed that she is not only read all the news, but she also pretends to be one of NTV’s fans and chats on line to fight back the negative publicity. I saw some of the on line chats posted on Vinashowbiz, and I knew it was her own comments.

    Haha….haha…..Oh, I have a good laugh! I am not related to Vu Lynn Cathy / Viet Thi at all. And I am not even her friend. But you know what? I hate homewrecker!….hihi…..

    Since NTV has already sung “Listen To Your Heart”, her next song should be “Listen To Your Head”. So she doesn’t make the same mistake again.

  • karla olson

    According to the Daglabdet’s newspaper, they said that she was 10 when she emigrates to Norway. Ngo Thanh Van came back to Vietnam in 1999 and used a fake identification to participate in a beauty pageant of the Vietnamese “Women’s World” magazine, where she finished as 2nd runner-up. Currently, she is working in Vietnam under a Norweigian Citizenship Visa. To cover up the fraud, she has lied to the Vietnamese News Media in Vietnam that when she was 16, she just went to Norway with her mother to visit. She even posted the cover up story on her official website. It’s so funny that she is a Norweigian citizen, but starred in The Rebel and fought against the French.

    Veronica Ngo’s chat nick name with her fans on her official website is nkdvirus. This is the same nick name that was used in those chat blogs posted on Vinashowbiz’s forums. Nkdvirus joined Vinashowbiz’s chat forum on August 12, 2006. About the same time, she began singing for Van Son Entertainment (DVD 35). On her official website, usually one has to sign in order to read all the posted chat blogs. And one also has to move the mouse to the right field in order for the posting to be visibled. On July 23, 2008, Ngo Thanh Van was either too busy or she may have thought that since those chat blogs weren’t visible, then may be nobody could see them. But she was wrong.

    NTV, you are a little devil. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I saw you posted bunches of pictures photographed with Johnny Tri Nguyen on Vinashowbiz’s chat blogs. And you even commented “Handsome guy, good looking girl, what’s a cute couple!”. You should be ashame of yourself. After, you have stole someone else’s husband, but you still dare made statements like that. You could fool other people, but couldn’t fool me.

    All posts listed by nkdvirus:

    Van Son Entertainment

    Nu Hoang Sac Dep, Hoa Hau Internet YeuYeuYeu is back!!!!!!!

    Luu My Linh

    Viet Thi Should Come Back

    Viet Thi Spoils Minh Tri

    Viet Thi Spoils Minh Tri 2

    A di da buhda! I think I am running into an invisible devil. NTV is a product made in Norway.

    Gotcha NTV!

  • vicent chen

    That Slutty Walking Hole Monica Blo Jo Veronica Ngo Thanh Van Whore had put up her official website. She took down the old version, and finally admitted that she left Vietnam at the age of 10. She could say anything she wanted to. Damm what a homewrecking bitch liar!

  • rocky road

    After all the researches on my own, I believed everything they said about Veronica Ngo Thanh Van.

    This is her new story about Fra Lillehammer til Hollywood

    This is the new Fra Lillehammer til Hollywood Ngo Thanh Van bodde i Lillehammer i ti år

    I couldn’t believe it. She could get away with anything. Is there any justices in this world? Ngo Thanh Van is truly an invisible evil. I am just a normal human being, and I think I should let God or Buhdda handles this virus.

    Amen or A di da Buhdda

  • Bananna Bread

    Ngo Thanh Van is also trying spam any websites that speaking negative about her. She dreseses and acts like Hitler Nazi in that Van Son Video 38 (They Don’t Care About Us). So please becareful! She thinks she own the whole world.

  • Vicky Vannuys

    Upon viewing Charlie Nguyen’s The Rebel (Dong Mau Anh Hung), I hope the Vietnamese action flick, unlike Vietnamese pop music, won’t be a Chinese-infected entertainment. As soon as the daughter of a secret anti-French leader Vo Thanh Thuy (Ngo Thanh Van) was captured and escaped with the help of Le Van Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) whose mission was to use Thuy to get to her father, Yimou Zhang’s House of the Flying Daggers rings the bell. I am not suggesting that the story was copied; I am just disappointing with lack of originality.

    The Rebel relied too much on the fighting scenes to carry the pace. The chorography became repetitive after a few fights. Try to count how many spin kicks Johnny Nguyen had used. Ngo Thanh Van took plenty of beating and slapping. Acting wise, Dustin Nguyen stole the show as a badass villain. He looked tough, heartless, and had the most charisma out the main cast.

    The main issue of The Rebel is the dialogue. Sometimes I have to read the English subtitles to understand what Johnny Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen and Nguyen Thang (damn, too many Nguyen) speak in Vietnamese. How ironic is that? The funniest term is used when Nguyen Thang calls Ngo Thanh Van “cho cai” (”bitch”). I have heard a much worst degrading term for female in Vietnamese, but never heard “cho cai” being used in that context.

    “What makes you proud of this film?” In an interview, Johnny Nguyen’s answer was: “The fact that Vietnamese could make action film too. We have our own style of fighting.” Sure, bro. But the problem is we’re still short on invention.

  • foxstross

    why are these people so jealous of NTV and JTN instead of being proud of them????………please sit down and think about yourself before criticize other people…

  • kas

    i have to say, i don’t know much about the drama between the two…but i have to say that this is a kicka$$ movie. great martial arts movie, i’ll give it props for that.
    storyline somewhat typical, but again, martial arts movie, so that can be forgiven.
    what i don’t understand though is how is it that chinese dubbing can be so much better than the straight up viet dialogue? i thought that was rather ridiculous and kinda funny. i mean, hong kong drama dubbed in viet is wonderful, i totally understand it, and everything said is great. for this movie, however, i had to read the freaking english subtitles. i mean, the subtitles seem to make more sense than the original viet scripted dialogue.
    other than that, kicka$$ martial arts movie

  • Tiff

    Ngo Thanh Van is a homewrecker. Johnny Nguyen is a no good husband and father.

  • Tiff

    Yep, Cathy Lynn (Johnny Nguyen's wife) stated in an interview that she taught and helped develop Ngo Thanh Van (Veronica) Ngo's martial arts. Cathy did it for the movie production and her husband's future success, but he ended up divorcing her and neglecting their children.

  • Tiff

    Totally agree!!

  • Tiff

    Because Cathy Lynn (Johnny Nguyen's wife) stated in an interview that Ngo Thanh Van was the third person. She had clear evidence. Cathy Lynn taught and helped develop Ngo Thanh Van (Veronica) Ngo's martial arts in The Rebel. She did it for the movie production and her husband's future success, but he ended up divorcing her and neglecting their children.

  • Tiff

    Cathy Lynn (VT) is a beautiful and independent woman!!

  • Tiff

    Pointing out something wrong does not imply anyone is jealous. If someone robs a bank and we say that's wrong, we are not in any way jealous of the robber. You get praised for doing something good and criticized for acting indecently. Suck it up and take the good and bad! Additionally, we have to teach values to younger generations. Taking someone else husband, cheating on your wife, and neglecting your children are disgraceful acts.