The Lady Assassin, a martial arts blockbuster, is my first Vietnamese film ever. A light Sunday night screening at this year’s Fantasia Festival, it was attended by a notable number of people from Montreal’s Vietnamese community. Billed as a Vietnamese wu xia, in the film, a princess sold in marriage is taken in by a team of high-flying, ass—kicking, thieving assassins posing as prostitutes and must learn to steal and kill or go back to her old life. The film is technically proficient and its story, although somewhat melodramatic and with a cutout villain, is wholly entertaining. We sometimes feel that the production suffers from lack of means, but the positive aspects of the film overshadow its flaws. The acting is solid, owing much to the two main actresses, the beauties Tang Thanh Ha and Thanh Hang, who obviously have acting experience, even if it’s not in film.
One of the movie’s star, local actor Thai-Hoa Le, who plays the villain Quan Du in the film, was also at the screening and listening to him describing the burgeoning Vietnamese film industry was enlightening and gratifying. It’s always pleasant to hear how national cinemas are developing. Thai-Hoa Le had inside information like the budget of the film (around 1 million US), the development of the local industry, its key actors, the relationship with expats and the diaspora, etc.
Watching The Lady Assassin also made me reminisce about viewing Legend of the Tsunami Warrior and Graceland, my first experience into Thai and Filipino cinema respectively and two great movies, in their own right.
Although it has flaws, taking into account that it’s a film from a developing national cinema, The Lady Assassin is an interesting foray into popular Vietnamese fare.