There are tons of martial arts movies that come out all the time and much like all the others more often than not they miss the mark. One of the latest, Once Upon A Time In Vietnam not only stars Dustin Nguyen of 21 Jump Street fame, but he also wrote and directed it. He has showcased his martial arts a few times in his career, but does he have the chops to bring this martial arts epic to life or will it miss it’s target?
Once Upon A Time In Vietnam follows a commander in the Emperor's army on a mission to retrieve fugitives in Vietnam who finds himself in the middle of a deadly conflict raging between a tyrannical crime boss and the peaceful town that he has under his thumb. But when he realizes that the beautiful monk warrior who fled the Emperor's army is living a secretive new life there, he must choose between upholding his oath to the Emperor and fighting to preserve the monk’s cherished town. On the surface this film feels like it’s going to be a traditional period martial arts film, but you quickly learn that it is more post-apocalyptic helping it to stand out a bit more. The story is simple enough and works despite being a bit all over the place at times. Nguyen does a decent job both in front of and behind the camera creating a world that is reminiscent of movies from the 80s like Steel Dawn. It’s a bit all over the place at times and does take some time to actually get anywhere, but the different take on this universe and the well-choreographed action help it to step out of the norm and on its own feet. There isn’t a ton of fight sequences, but the ones that are here work well and everyone brings their A-game. It’s great seeing Nguyen taken the lead and does a great job with both the role and the action. He has all the makings of a great action star and hopefully this will step in the right direction.
While the pacing and some of the story are a bit all over the place, the action makes up for some of it making it a decent rental for any fan of martial arts. Those that are not fans of the 80s and 90s straight to video releases may not find the charm here, but those that do are sure to have a decent time. In addition to the film this DVD features numerous special features including behind the scenes and a trailer gallery.