Friday, January 8, 2021

Song Lang Review: A Complicated And Beautiful Story About Conflicted Characters

Kim Chi	...	Cigarette Lady Isaac	Isaac	...	Linh Phung Vu T. Le Thi	Vu T. Le Thi	...	The Mother Phuong Minh	Phuong Minh	...	Auntie Nga Huynh Ngoc	Huynh Ngoc	...	Ms. Le Bao Chau Nguyen	Bao Chau Nguyen	...	Lu Bo / Trieu Da Thi Kieu Trinh Nguyen	Thi Kieu Trinh Nguyen	...	Hong Dieu (as Kieu Trinh) Lien Binh Phat	Lien Binh Phat	...	Dung 'Thunderbolt' Kim Phuong	Kim Phuong	...	The Boss Huu Quoc	Huu Quoc	...	Khanh Linh Tu Quyen	Tu Quyen	...	Thuy Van Hoang Sang	Hoang Sang	...	Teacher Hong Sap	Hong Sap	...	Wardrobe Kim Long Thach	Kim Long Thach	...	The Father Tu Thanh	Tu Thanh	...	Lan

Release date: November 10, 2020 (U.S. Debut)
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Kim Chi, Isaac, Vu T. Le Thi, Lien Binh Phat
Director: Leon Le
Writers: Leon Le, Minh Ngoc Nguyen

An unlikely bond forms between an underground debt collector and a cai luong "Vietnamese opera" performer against the backdrop of Saigon in the 90s.

Song Lang is a slow burning film but one that does a great job of telling this story and establishing the characters.  The film follows two main men, who seem very different but over time learn that they have more similarities than meets the eye.  Dung (Lien Binh Phat) is a debt enforcer who has the unenviable job of making people pay back for high interest loans that they take out.  He has become numb to this work and treats and the brutality that it requires.  Linh Phung (Isaac) is a talented opera performer whose family took out a debt that has to be collected by Dung.  But when the two cross paths, they form an unlikely friendship that will challenge both of their preconceptions about each other.

Directed by  Leon Le	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Leon Le	 Minh Ngoc Nguyen        Produced by  Pham Phuong Dung	...	executive producer Pham Thanh Hai	...	executive producer Nguyen Nu Nhu Khue	...	executive producer Veronica Ngo	...	executive producer / producer Amy Tran Nitao	...	executive producer Nguyen Thu Thuy	...	executive producer Irene Trinh	...	producer Vo Thi Hong Van	...	executive producer
This film has a really good setting.  It spends a lot of time establishing this area and the characters, giving you a solid backstory before introducing you to the main conflict.  And the conflicted protagonist is wonderfully complex.  The film portrays him as a brutal enforcer but also starts to drop hints that there is more to him than meets the eyes.  And when Dung and Linh start to interact, a lot of the heart of the film comes through.  Their interactions are fun to see and really emphasize the idea that people are far more complex than we give them credit for.  They each have sides that they rarely show and interests that would surprise a casual observer.  And because Linh is an opera singer, you also get some fantastic scenes of the opera itself.  Not only do you get some great performances, but you also get some behind the scenes shots that show how the opera actually works.  

And the film also has a lot of little touches that appealed to me.  There is a scene where classic video games are played that helped me relate to the characters and their interests.  And there is some fighting, especially because Dung is an enforcer, that adds some much needed action to this otherwise wonderfully slow drama.  I was expecting more action during this film, but was not disappointed by the slower, more heartfelt film that I found.  And the story of this movie is moving and wonderful.  It is an interesting one with themes of redemption and trying to rise above your lot in life.  And it is one that will appeal to anyone that has had a dream and tried to pursue it. 

Song Lang has two wonderfully conflicted characters and an interesting, nuanced story that tells a tale of friendship, judgment, and redemption.

Watch it.

Drama Martial Arts Crime Thriller Opera Vietnam Vietnamese Bautiful
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Song Lang is available digitally and on demand. 

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