Director: Victor Vu
Writer: Hong Phuc, Doan Nhat Nam, Victor Vu
Producer: Le Lam Vien, Pham Viet Anh Khoa
Cast: Huynh Dong, Midu, Van Trang, Khuong Ngoc, Van Anh, Minh Thuan, Jaivee Mai
Running Time: 100 min.
Sword of the Assassin, aka Blood Letter (2012), a Vietnamese language epic period drama/action starring Huynh Dong, Midu, Kim Hien, Khuong Ngoc, and Minh Thuan is directed by Vietnamese film maker and script writer Victor Vu. The film won a number of awards at the 2012 Golden Kite Awards (Vietnam’s equivalent to the Oscars, organized by the Vietnam Cinema Association) including Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
Vu, a Southern California native is one of the most prolific directors working in Vietnam today. He has worked on a multitude of genres including action, comedy, horror and thriller. His body of work includes First Morning (2003), Spirits (2004), Passport to Love (2009), Inferno (2010), Battle of the Brides (2011), Scandal (2012), Battle of the Brides 2 (2013), and Vengeful Heart (2014).
Sword of the Assassin is a likeable movie though not very original. We have seen a number of films with similar themes of a noble family massacred, the sole survivor training in martial arts biding his time, and later seeking vengeance while trying to clear the family name. Dong stars as Vu Nguyen, the sole survivor of the Nguyens, having been saved by a manservant while he helplessly watched as three generations of the Nguyen clan are executed on orders from the Empress Dowager (Thai Hau) for crimes against the country. Sounds familiar?
Not only was Nguyen saved from execution, he was also fortunate enough to be brought to a monastery where for the next 12 years he trained in martial arts with a priest who was a good friend of his grandfather.
He later learned from the priest that crimes attributed to one of his grandfather’s concubine led to charges filed against his grandfather resulting in punishment for the whole clan. There also is a so called “blood letter” which may prove the family’s innocence and possibly bring down the royal family.
Vu is now on a mission to find the “blood letter” to try making sense of it all. In his quest he met a beautiful lantern vendor, Hoa Xuan (Midu) and her sister Hoa Ha (Kim Hien). Turns out they are kindred spirits (credit). The Hoas have also been wronged by the Thai Hau who murdered her whole family. Of course, as the movie progresses Xuan becomes his love interest.
Khuong Ngoc is quite menacing as the main villain and assassin carrying out the Thai Hau’s dirty bidding. I wish there would have been more fight scenes between him and Dong. The fight scenes are very well choreographed by Johnny Tri Nguyen (Clash, The Rebel, The Protector), an expert in Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Aikido and Wu Shu. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon must have been on his mind from his use of stylized slow-motion CGI leaps, jumps, kicks, and weaponry reminiscent of Hong Kong productions.
The lush backdrop of mountains, waterfalls and a number of bodies of water is magnificent and the only gripe I have is that there should have been more included in the film. I did enjoy the movie and look forward to more swordsplay movies coming out of Vietnam.
oneleaf’s Rating: 7/10