Luc Van Tien (2017)

Based on a 19th-century Vietnamese poem, this action-comedy takes the Iceman Cometh route and features some funny bits and some blistering action courtesy of a Jackie Chan Stunt Team member and some YouTube stars.

In modern-day Vietnam, a young man emerges from a temple on a horse. At first, he is believed to be a part of the filming of a movie. However, it is soon revealed that this man is a legendary figure named Luc Van Tien. When Teo, a con artist who has been trying to do good, discovers him, he changes his name to Lo-Vo-To and offers him food. When Van Tien sees a girl being kidnapped, he comes to her rescue and defeats the thugs, drawing the ire of Dasher Bui, who is part of a human trafficking ring.

Van Tien is finding his true love, who left him centuries ago. He mistakes the girl he rescued, Mong Nga, as the one he is searching for. However, he soon realizes that the real true love is Nguyet Nga, who is a well-respected teahouse owner who is planning to start business with Dasher Bui and his boss. When Nguyet Nga realizes the true intentions of Bui and the boss, she soon realizes that Van Tien, the mysterious warrior who has been causing trouble, is the one she’s looking for. When she is kidnapped and the boss hires a champion to take on Van Tien, the hero is now more determined to make sure that everything is done right on New Year’s Eve.

There is something very special about Jackie Chan’s Stunt Team. They bust their butts (literally and figuratively) to entertain the fans and while we had members of the team appear as leads in some films in the 1990’s, such as Angry Ranger, as of late, they haven’t had broken out in that manner. Until now. Vietnamese-German stunt team member Andy Long Nguyen takes the lead in this film, which takes a page of the Hong Kong action film The Iceman Cometh with the titular character based on a 19th-century poem by blind poet Nguyen Dihn Chieu.

Andy Long Nguyen is really good in his first lead role in a feature film. He’s got the charisma, the ability to pull off some funny slapstick in one memorable scene, a chance to show an emotional range, and some amazing martial arts skills, rolled up in one nifty package. What is even more outstanding is that he has some excellent friends to back him up in the form of YouTube stars Martial Club and The Young Masters. The former is a martial arts stunt team whose members include brothers Andy and Brian Le, who get to show off their flair for action and comedy as they are a running gag seen a few times that ends hilariously. The latter is a German-based outfit whose members are Japanese-German martial arts aces Lorenz Hideyuki and Felix Funakoshi, who play the two main henchmen on the big boss, decked out in white and black suits and unleashing their amazing skills against Long in two scuffles, the latter being one of the highlights of the film.

Diep Lam Ahn is great as the teahouse lady, who seems to be at first a femme fatale like character. When she helps Mong Nga, played by Kim Tuyen, a country girl whose kidnapped to be part of a trafficking ring, she tells her girls will be used to be toys, but she will help her. And for the most part, she does that, but not realizing what she gets herself into. Huu Tin provides some of the comic relief as Teo, a young man who seems like a conman with a heart of gold. He wants to do the right thing but is not sure how until he meets Van Tien. And it is he who will surprisingly find himself a love interest in this adventure.

The villains are hit and miss. Adam Lam’s Dasher Bui looks like Sam Lee’s Alien character in Gen-Y Cops if he was more flamboyant. Despite his look, he does serve as a mastermind of sorts and it is Martial Club who serve as his henchmen and thus, provide the funny running gag. The big boss himself is a bit of a pain, attempting to speak both Vietnamese and English, calling himself international when asked about his background. He is very sleazy and finds himself enthralled with the champion hired to take out our hero.

Luc Van Tien may suffer from a bit of lackluster comedy in spurts. However, the reason to see this is Andy Long Nguyen, who proves himself both as an actor and fight director, showcasing some excellent fight scenes just proving that the Jackie Chan Stunt Team can churn out some great talents.

WFG RATING: B

A Happy Entertainment production in association with Lotte Cinema. Director: Hoang Phuc Nguyen. Producer: Hoang Phuc Nguyen. Writer: Phi Tien Son. Cinematography: Phi Tien Son. Editing: Hoang Phuc Nguyen and Cuong Tran.

Cast: Andy Long Nguyen, Diep Lam Ahn, Huu Tien, Kim Tuyet, Adam Lam, Quang Thang, Lorenz Hideyuki, Felix Fukuyoshi, Andy Le, Brian Le, Du An.

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