New on DVD: The Rebel

New on DVD: The Rebel

The Rebel is an achievement of martial arts ability anchored in an intriguing and personal tale of politics, power and betrayal. Le Van Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) is considered a traitor by his people. He and his brother in arms, Sy (Dustin Nguyen), are members of the secret police, working to eradicate opposition forces rebelling against […]

The Rebel is an achievement of martial arts ability anchored in an intriguing and personal tale of politics, power and betrayal.

Le Van Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) is considered a traitor by his people. He and his brother in arms, Sy (Dustin Nguyen), are members of the secret police, working to eradicate opposition forces rebelling against the occupying French in the 1920s. However, when Cuong is stained by the blood of an adolescent would-be assassin and witnesses the brutal torture of the rebel leader’s daughter (Victoria Ngo), he questions whether he is fighting on the right side of the battle. Meanwhile, Sy is doing everything necessary to gain the power of a government official.

The hard-hitting, high-kicking lead actor has fought opposite Jet Li, Tony Jaa and is best known, although unrecognized, as the man inside the suit in Spider-Man 2 as well as the Green Goblin double in the first film. Taking on the roles of writer, producer, action choreographer and star, Johnny Nguyen breathes life into this project.

The martial arts talent in this film is stunningly significant. Ngo is as impressive as Johnny, delivering staggering hits that stand up to any of the men’s stunts. Dustin is probably best remembered for his role in the ‘80s television series 21 Jump Street, but here he displays his acting muscle as well as physical ability. Johnny is at the centre of this spectacle, providing expert co-ordination and rendering extraordinary onslaughts, while sincerely portraying a man torn between loyalty to his country and his career.

Although the story may not be original, the film does not rely on special effects to retain the audiences’ attention; instead, the simple plot is driven by good action sequences in various locations and plausible acting.

The first-disc contains the feature and commentary by Johnny, Dustin, Ngo and Dragon Dynasty’s resident expert Bey Logan. Unfortunately, Logan’s presence makes the commentary sound more like an extended interview. The second-disc includes 30-minute interviews with each of the main actors, a deleted scene featuring Dustin, a martial arts demonstration by Johnny, behind-the-scenes snippets and 30-minutes of raw footage cut together to form a “making of” featurette. And although The Rebel was a Vietnamese production, the key players all speak English, so subtitles in the bonus materials are minimal.