The director, cast and crew of Bui doi Cho Lon (The gangsters in the melting pot of Cho Lon) are currently in a deadlock after being requested to cut most of its gory scenes by the Vietnam Motion Pictures Office so that their film may survive the office’s stringent scrutiny.
Bui doi Cho Lon, directed by Vietnamese- American director Charlie Nguyen and featuring his brother Johnny Tri Nguyen, who had performed stunts for several Hollywood films including Spiderman, as the lead actor, depicts the ruthless gang wars and is densely packed with gory, dramatic kungfu fights.
However, the brothers’ strength turns out to be a ‘fatal’ weakness as the Motion Pictures Office’s assessing board strongly disapproved of its prevalent scenes depicting bloody, violent killings between gangs with little intervention from law enforcers. According to the office, as the film is set in Cho Lon, a real location in Ho Chi Minh City, it also wrongly portrays the city’s security situation.
According to Ngo Phuong Lan, head of the office, late last year her office requested the film makers to remove such scenes from its plot. However, Chanh Phuong Co., the producer, ignored the request and went ahead with the filming and production.
Last month, after evaluating the finished film, the assessing board under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism noted that the film still retains many overly violent, gory details.
The office again required Chanh Phuong Co. to make multiple revisions to the whole film. However, the company defiantly announced Apr 19 as the public screening date without the release permit.
“We could have banned the film from being screened, but considering the film crew’s efforts and investment, we wanted to give them a second chance,” said Lan, the office head.
On Apr 10, soon after being reminded once more of their wrongs, Chanh Phuong Co. and Thien Ngan Co., the distributor, promised to do the right thing.
Struggling for a way out
Though the screening delay came as no surprise to the film crew, cast and fans, its director Charlie Nguyen is grappling hard to cope.
Charlie and his brother Johnny, the film’s action director and lead actor, elucidated that their goal is to make a true action film packed with highly realistic, thrilling kungfu feats, which is hard to come by in the local film industry.
“I’m willing to make necessary modifications, but alternations are almost impossible if they don’t match with the film’s theme and storyline. I’m positive that we didn’t violate the motion picture regulations,” Charlie told Vnexpress.
Regarding the assessors’ opinion that the film wrongly reflected Cho Lon’s security situation, Charlie said, as the film is fictitious just like any Hollywood action flick, it’s really difficult to stick strictly to the locality’s history and the law enforcers, or the good, only appear towards the end of the film to triumph over the evil.
Besides, the gang war scene going on without police intervention takes place in one night only, not day in day out as the assessors claimed, Charlie noted.
“As the office didn’t spell out exactly what to alter or remove, we’re now at the end of the road, faced with the grim reality of cutting all action scenes, which means shooting an entirely different film and incurring huge extra costs,” the director sadly shared.
According to a Vnexpress source, after the meeting with the office, Charlie has had some scenes reshot, but they have yet to get the nod from the assessors.
“In my opinion, this type of real action films is still new in Vietnam. Its high realisticness gives the impression of violence. In fact, the film also conveys profound humanitarian lessons behind the fighting and bloodsheds,” shared Ha Hien, another lead actor in the film.
Mixed audience opinions
The film’s screening delay has caused quite a stir among netizens. Many favor the assessors’ decision.
“Watching its trailer, I think the film is overly violent and negatively stimulating, which can adversely impact youths, especially as robberies in broad daylight and murders are alarmingly rampant these days,” wrote Hoang Thi Ngoc Mai.
Meanwhile, others object to the film screening delay.
“I think with minors’ readily easy access to rampant violent and horrible content on television and the Internet, it’s quite ineffective to protect them from harm just by making changes to this film,” wrote phuongnguyen.
“The excuse that the film doesn’t truly reflect reality isn’t persuasive. Moreover, people, especially youngsters, tend to be more curious about banned films, which they can still watch online or through pirated DVDs,” wrote GirlonFire.