It was back in late 2014 that I didn’t catch on to then-debut helmer Cuong Ngo’s crime pic, Huong Ga. The trailer itself was great and with justice done even more so if the nominations it received the following year from shows at Golden Apricot and Vietnamese Golden Kite are anything to go by. Ergo, it’s understandable that nods like would earn someone like Ngo a little more attention as he continues his craft in the action genre, thus bringing us in with his latest thriller, Truy Sat which released in Vietnam earlier this year from TNA Films and CJ Entertainment.
The film does stumble in just a few areas but it’s a film staunch with action and great pacing, and most of the acting is solid from its cast. Huong Ga star, actress Troung Ngoc Anh reunites with our director to lead the film which doesn’t hesitste to jump right into a the bullets and the bang bang. Here, she plays Nguyen, a relentless cop with a penchant for going rogue amid her dedication to the badge. When she’s not risking her life on the job, she’s at home, beholden to the care of her younger special needs brother, and the biggest help here comes from her superior and close confidant, Troung (Vinh Thuy) who often grants her modest leniency enough to let her do her thing without any serious penalty.
The main premise of Truy Sat sees the two investigating the deeds of the Wolf Gang with presumed leader, Loc (Lamou Vissay) as the prime suspect. Nguyen receives a tip from Troung to stake out an auction one evening, only to survive a fatal encounter with one of two armed assailants at the scene. What ensues a series of explosive events that ultimately force Nguyen into hiding while questioning who her real friends and enemies are as the time nears for one final, bloody confrontation.
Much of the acting is good with some of the cast even doling out a few great moments of bilingual acting for the film’s international appeal. Prominently worth noting is the chemistry between some of our cast; moments of levity between Nguyen and Troung offer a steady balance of drama and a view further into the flexibility of our actors’ performances. Seldom fleeting moments of minor humor and personality also show with at least one scene between characters Nguyen and Loc’s hired muscle, Kien played by actor Thien Nguyen proving exemplary. One word: Hand cuffs.
There’s not much to build from, save for the pursuit of vengeance and criminal growth for the criminal end of the spectrum with Vissay as Loc, variously turning in a terrific performance next to actress and martial artist Maria Tran as Phuong, the sole female villain under Loc’s leadership. Tran’s role is a small one, but her acting caliber and natural screenfighting ability make her one of the most palpable and talented award-winning film professionals today on both sides of the lens.
The action slips from time to time – sometimes with editing and the execution of a few of stunts seeming otherwise short or filmed a bit tight, but most of the action sequences work really well. Co-star and action choreographer Trung Ly, best known for his work on Tran’s award-winning shortfilm, Hit Girls, shows his acumen for designing action for the camera, and with much credit to heralded Hong Kong-certified cinematographer Ross Clarkson (Undisputed 2, Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear).
The fight finale brings a mix of fists, feet, swords and some bow and arrow, lending us the prospect of another potential screenfighting star in actor Cuong Seven. Through all this and in the course of an hour and a half, actress Anh continues to display her devotion to physical acting roles that may demand some bumps and bruises, but nonetheless rewards with substance and toughness in her poise.
All of the prime cast get a shining fighting moment, even actor Thuy whose final moments in the film are surprisingly much more forgiving by the end (most other films, in my opinion, wouldn’t be so optimistic and you’ll see what I mean when you see this film for yourself). So does French-Vietnamese actor Marcus Guilhem who, much like Nguyen, doesn’t waste a moment going shirtless when obligatory muscles are required, and in his debut role no less. Indeed, Truy Sat is a female-centric actioner but the film definitely retains its fair share of macho beef cakery for the ladies and others among viewers, reassuring moviegoing public a visible, palpable response to any notion that Asian male actors portray characters that are too weak to carry an action film.
Several of the film’s visual effects are obvious to the naked eye, but the film makes up for it with as much practicality as possible, on top of steady performances, watchable action and a thrilling story that doesn’t go too far fetched. Ngo invokes an ample understanding on how to make an action movies entertaining and fun and he delivers accordingly with Truy Sat, and if there are prospects for Ngo in making more action films after this, I am of the opinion that his will, as they should be, met with a warm welcome.