FOGGY MOUNTAIN Review: Peter Pham’s U.S. Debut Punches In With An Action-Packed Revenge Thriller
Actor and martial artist Peter Pham’s relationship with U.S. distributor Well Go USA has been brewing for some time now, after emerging online with select action shorts in the last several years. This growth eventually led to the production and premiere of Brennan Lane’s hit short film, Mayhem, taking nicely to the virtual crowd for the SDCC Kung Fu Extravaganza back in 2020. That was the year filmmaker Phan Anh’s martial arts thriller, Foggy Mountain, would finally hit the world sales floor through Arclight with the burgeoning star set to finally stake his claim in a feature setting outside of Vietnam.
With the film’s current release made instant last week on Well Go’s niche martial arts streamer, Hi-YAH!, genre fans can now gauge Pham’s Western debut in the action arena which now pairs him among a cadre of company headliners like Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Marko Zaror, Philip Ng, Saori Izawa, Vincent Zhao, and many more. For this, we get a straightforward thriller that places Pham and his co-stars squarely in the Vietnamese jungle in a story of vengeance and survival, packed with parables for a message calibrated with enough foreshadowing to lend some uncertainty as we follow our protagonist’s journey.
Co-helmed by Ken Dinh, Anh’s Foggy Mountain stars Pham as Phi, a former journeyman fighter and veteran of the underworld fighting circuit now on the cusp of a escape with vision-impaired wife Lanh (Truc May) into their peaceful life. Suddenly, a phone call to court him for another fight then offering him more than enough money to treat Lanh’s blindness changes everything for the once happy couple. Little does Phi know that his opponent is fighting for Ba Rau (Thach Kim Long), the notorious leader of a human trafficking ring, so imaginably, Phi’s skills prove to be no match for Rau’s ruthlessness when after losing to Phi, instead ambushes him when he rejects his offer to join his organization.
The worst is yet to come, however, when Phi wakes up in a landfill, dazed and lost, and forced to hitch a ride back to his now burglarized bearings where Lanh’s body is left hung as the first dreadful sight to see. Realizing Lanh’s death as an act of retaliation, Phi journeys to his old remote village, reuniting with old friends and neighbors, including former student Bang Tam (Le Thao), and village chief, Vang Pa (Pham Huy Thuc), who already has more than his share of woes thanks to the aforementioned crimeboss whose remote hideout sits alongside the titular mountain within the region. With vengeance on his mind, however, it’s only a matter of time before Phi will have to choose between justice for all of Ba Rau’s victims, and a singular act of revenge that could lead him astray from the purity of his martial spirit.
Pham lends an apt performance with a script that allows him plenty of space to flex his acting and action muscles where and when needed – a simple enough ask for a direct story that focuses largely on the more important aspects without too many frills to become burdensome. The context pertaining to Phi’s martial astudious feels a bit more like an afterthought though, so it takes time for this particular point of character development to arise. Even then, it’s not as fully fleshed out as it probably could have been, which makes The Foggy Mountain less of a martial arts spiritual than preferred.
What’s left to take the most from of course is the plot progression as we watch Phi come to terms with his new aim in life following Lanh’s death, and how his relationships flourish with other characters. There’s a suggested sense of closeness between him and Bang Tam that might have led to something more than a platonic connection, but that’s about all that’s offered here as the film leaves little room for flippant or trite romantic twists, though it does leave you wondering about the possibilities without forcing it. Much of their buisness with each other from midway into the film and onward is ado with solving the riddle of what’s really been going on lately with respect to Ba Rau’s dealings, and ultimately fighting to free several villagers from captivity following a brazen late evening attack.
Ip Man 3 co-star and Thai actor Simon Kuke, whose screen credits in the stunt and action arena span Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and now Vietnam, joins Pham for yet another creative outing in a Well Go release as Ba Rau’s main henchman. Both actors are the centerpiece opponents of the film and get to their shot with one another in two out of more than twenty fight sequences, all shepherded by Pham as action director. Editing choices tend to get in the way of the choreography at times, while most of the shots are fantastic and clear enough that you can see the actors in action, and the sequences are all palatable enough to watch and enjoy.
Foggy Mountain captiulates with a tragic reveal that smartly propels the film’s final act, lending the final touch to Phi’s development for Pham as the story comes to its bittersweet close. Some savvy writing and direction help provide some relevancy to the presence of law enforcement, requisite as they are for productions of this kind, though it leaves a few things in the air with at least one character in the third act. If sidebar story blemishes like this aren’t too much for your martial arts movie consumption needs, however, then The Foggy Mountain shouldn’t be too steep to climb once you hit Play over at Hi-YAH!
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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