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Film Review: Foggy Mountain (2020) by Panh Anh 
Film Review: Foggy Mountain (2020) by Panh Anh 

Film Review: Foggy Mountain (2020) by Panh Anh 

If everyone sought revenge, the entire world would be without sight.

Vengeance according to the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as “the act of punishing or harming someone in return for what they have done to you, your family, or your friends”. It is perhaps the biggest staple of action cinema with so many plots centered around this notion. “Foggy Mountain” is one of the latest to follow this well-trodden path. As Well Go USA release it onto the various media platforms, it’s time to look at this Vietnamese tale and see if it can add anything new. 

Phi (Peter Pham), an underground fighter, plans to retire after one final match to raise money for his wife’s eye surgery. However, after winning the fight, he is betrayed by Ba Rau (Thach Kim Long), the gang boss who had secretly bet on his defeat. Phi is knocked unconscious and when he wakes up, he discovers that his wife has been killed. Fueled by a desire for revenge, Phi sets out to find Ba Rau, who has fled. Along the way, he meets Bang (Le Thao), his former student, and Vang Pa (Pham Huy Thuc), the village chief who has been forced to help Ba Rau. Phi also becomes the protector of several children he encounters. Despite these distractions, Phi remains determined to carry out his mission, even if it means sacrificing his own humanity.

At first glance, “Foggy Mountain” follows many of the overused tropes commonly seen in this genre. The protagonist’s wife Lahn (Truc May) is portrayed as exceptionally virtuous and mostly appears in flashbacks. This may seem like a typical stereotype, but the focus of the story is on seeking revenge, leaving little time to explore the relationship between the hero and those he seeks vengeance for. There are the usual sentimental moments scattered throughout the film, but they lack depth and are presented in a predictable manner. Adding to the cliches, Phi is fighting to raise money for an operation to save her eyesight. However, in the final 10 minutes, a twist is revealed that changes everything. While it could be seen as yet another attempt to make Phi even more virtuous, it is executed brilliantly. This twist adds complexity to the main antagonist and ties in with his character always having a plan. It also challenges the idea of seeking revenge and prompts a rare moment of introspection in the action-packed world of cinema.

The film also adds depth to a character who initially comes across as one-dimensional and serious. Phi is driven by a desire for revenge, but as he saves the captured children, he begins to rediscover his compassion. Despite this, vengeance remains his ultimate goal. Early on, he is reminded that seeking revenge only leads to a never-ending cycle of destruction. Throughout the film, there are hints that his quest for revenge may ultimately be futile and that he is causing harm to himself in the process. At first, he refuses Bang’s pleas for help in rescuing and protecting the children, but eventually he changes his mind. In the end, he is able to reclaim his humanity, though the final scene suggests an uncertain future ahead.

To effectively tell a revenge story, it is essential to have a despicable villain that can captivate the audience and make them empathize with the protagonist’s quest for revenge. In this case, there are two such villains. Thach Kim Long delivers an exceptional performance as the main antagonist, with his Machiavellian nature and ability to stay one step ahead of his opponents. His constant smile only fuels the audience’s desire to see his downfall. Voong Akor serves as a perfect counterpart, calmly walking instead of running during a chase in the forest, reminiscent of a masked killer in a horror movie. Simon Kook also impresses with his powerful presence and martial arts skills, reminiscent of classic supporting villains like Bolo Yeung. The intense showdown between him and Phi is just as brutal as one would expect.

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The direction of the action scenes is excellently executed. Some sequences have been slightly enhanced to emphasize the impact of the hits. This includes punches going through objects and a touch of wirework after a strike. These enhancements are not too obvious and are used sparingly, making them even more impactful. The action is well-defined and not rushed, with different combat styles given to some of the fighters to prevent repetition.

At just 86 minutes long, this film may not have a lot of depth when it comes to character development. It does follow many common cliches that one would expect, and despite its limited budget, it still manages to have enough interesting concepts and action to make it worth a viewing.