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Blood Letter ("Thien Menh Anh Hung")

Canadian Premiere
  • Vietnam
  • 2012
  • 100 mins
  • DCP
  • Vietnamese
  • English (subtitles)

Dark omens announce a startling arrival at the doorstep of a Buddhist monastery along a river — a young boy and girl, wounded, scared, alone. A dozen years pass and the lad is now a man, his impressive skills in the martial arts, honed by the monk who has sheltered him, improving by the day. Though he has taken the name Tran Nguyen Vu, his true identity is that of the last descendent of a nobleman beheaded for his responsibility in the death of the King. But was Tran’s grandfather unjustly accused? Will his own head soon roll? The path to justice and the truth will take Tran to the heart of the royal court, but not before it crosses that of mysterious sisters with a thirst for vengeance. They’re all after a document that will prove undeniably the innocence or guilt of Tran’s ancestor, but there are those who would all too eagerly kill to keep their secrets safe…

Director Victor Vu is, like Charlie Nguyen of THE REBEL fame, a Vietnamese-American who returned to his roots — and an exciting film career in the motherland. Following his hit rom-com BATTLE OF THE BRIDES, Vu detours into the realm of kiem hiep, or swordfighter adventures, adapting Bui Anh Tan’s well-known novel into Vietnam’s first film of its ilk. Giving all but the best Chinese wuxia films a run for their money, Vu whips up a wonderful historical fantasy flush with drama and intrigue, with flashy fight scenes (overseen of course by rising star Johnny Nguyen of THE REBEL and THE CLASH) and the breathtaking beauty of the Vietnamese landscape. While dazzling the eyes of the audience with scenic splendour, lavish noble estates and rousing clashes — never to mention mystical madness. Vu also makes sure to nimbly weave in a strong thread of clever humour, fueling Huynh Dong’s charming portrayal of the headstrong and occasionally hapless Tran, and bringing a welcome touch of lightness to his grand, fierce and distinctly Vietnamese action epic.

— Rupert Bottenberg