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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Action > Revenge > Once Upon A Time In Vietnam (2013/Lionsgate DVD)

Once Upon A Time In Vietnam (2013/Lionsgate DVD)

Picture: B- Sound: B Extras: C- Film: B

Dustin Nguyen's Once Upon A Time in Vietnam (2013) is an epic indy with interesting ideas, production design, and characters but has moments where it shows its low budget in the shape of bad digital effects. The action is well choreographed but the problem with the film is that it tried to go too big when it should have restrained itself in some regards.

The film takes place in a semi-modern, semi-period Vietnam where Dao, a commander in the Emperor's army, finds himself in the middle of a deadly conflict raging between a tyrannical crime box and the peaceful town under the boss' thumb. Possessing extraordinary powers including a hand that can transform in a mystical fist, Dao tracks down Ahn - his lost lover and a monk warrior who fled the Emperor's army nine years ago and started a family with a local baker whose business is on the down end.

When Dao rents a small apartment on Ahn's property from her new husband, he realizes that the young son that she has been raising is really his and possesses Dao's mystical powers, which he puts to use after being bullied at his local school. Once the Emperor comes in to the picture, he lays his fist down on Do and Ahn for breaking their truce and having relations against their blood oaths. In addition, Ahn must struggle with choosing which path she must face - the new one she has created that is more normal or her duty to her Emperor.

The highlight of the film is definitely the character of Dao, played by the director himself. Usually dressed in armor or a red cloak, Dao moves throughout the film with elegance and precision and only picks a fight if someone comes at him first. He is very matter of fact and the effects surrounding his powers are pretty impressive considering the films budget. I want to point out a big thing that bothers me is Ahn's son has several premonitions in the form of drawings surrounding his room in the film that are WAY too good for a youngster to draw... even one with mystical powers. They should have made that a tad bit more realistic.

The film is by no means bad and is decently paced. The transfer is fine for a DVD release that is presented in a standard definition, anamorphically enhanced and in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 preserving the original theatrical presentation. The audio tracks are in a lossy Dolby 5.1 Vietnamese and English digital audio. I will warn you that the English dubs on this disc are down right awful and the voices they have chosen do not match the characters at all. There are also optional English and Spanish subtitles on the disc.

Extras include a Behind the Scenes featurette with interviews and a Trailer Gallery. Both of which are standard EPK materials and nothing to really write home about.

All in all, the film is a decent watch but by no means a classic or perfect film. If you are a fan of Asian fantasy films or are looking for some cool fight scenes then this may be a good casual watch for you.

- James Harland Lockhart V



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