Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Submitted by Vietnam: 578 Magnum

It is tough being a trucker in America, because you must deal with raising oil prices, spare parts inflation, and nuisance law suits. At least they usually do not have to contend with a brutal human trafficking gang, like Hung. His daughter was a victim of the creepy criminals, so he is out to deliver some street justice in Luong Dinh Dung’s 578 Magnum, Vietnam’s official internation Oscar submission, which releases this Friday on VOD.

Hung was once a member of Vietnam’s Special Forces, so the boss, Mr. Khang, admits in hindsight, his predatory son Thai should have avoided Hung’s young daughter, An. Still, as far he is concerned, what’s done is done. Frankly, it was probably a miracle one of his henchmen released the gravely ailing girl, out of concern for her health. She recovers physically, but the trauma continues to torment her.

Hung will pass along the pain to Khang’s gang, foiling their next abduction. Soon, Khang has small armies of thugs out looking for Hung. The angry father is not a superman. He takes a number of severe beatings, but he is incredibly hard to kill.

For those who want to see some massive martial arts beatdowns, this film is for you. If you have no patience for boring transitions or establishing shots, you are sure to appreciate Dung’s approach, because he often just jumps into fight scenes, without even a “how do you do?” It is probably just as well.
578 Magnum cuts directly to the chase, delivering exactly what it promises. Oscar experts might consider it a poor fit for Academy voters’ taste, but 578 Magnum secured distribution from the well-regarded Film Movement, so maybe the added attention paid dividends.

Regardless, the martial arts work is no joke. Action director Oh Sea-young’s fight choreography is spectacularly cinematic and unapologetically brutal. This is old school stuff all the way, in which an expert fighter faces multiple waves of brawlers, and a few mercenaries with considerably skills of their own. Alexandre Nguyen has the right silent and steely chops as Hung and he finds worthy foils in imposing wrestler Ha Van Hieu, martial arts master Tuan Hac, and supermodel Jessica Minh Anh (as Son the Giant, Ly “Poker Face,” and the leader of a team of women assassins).

As a bonus, Dung often stages the melee in visually striking locations. This movie has a gritty, grungy attitude, but it still takes viewers to some lovely spots. Highly recommended for martial arts fans,
578 Magnum releases this Friday (2/23) on VOD.