Imagine Spider-Man murdering a young boy. The Rebel isn't a revisionist superhero movie, but it does star Johnny Nguyen, who was the masked stunt double for Spider-Man and Green Goblin in two of Sam Raimi's web-spinning adventures. Here Nguyen plays Cuong, an enforcer for the French exploiters in 1920s Vietnam. Anti-colonial protests have been gaining force and exerting pressure upon the ruling French, and Cuong is expected to help put them down. Caught up in his violent duties, Cuong kills a boy almost without realizing what he's done. He feels instant, piercing regret, as though the guilt for all his sins has come crashing down upon him. His remorse becomes a galvanizing force that pushes him to stop shedding the blood of his own people.
To begin, he tries to help a young rebel escape torture and certain death. The beautiful Thuy (Veronica Ngo, AKA Ngo Thanh Van) is important to both sides: her father is leader of the anti-government movement. She is understandably wary about Cuong's true intentions. Just as he's making headway in convincing her of his sincerity, his cynical, ambitious overlord Sy (Dustin Nguyen, of 21 Jump Street fame, who's never been better) appears. Sy is less interested in Cuong's allegiance than in the possibility that he can lead him to Thuy's father.
While the story is riddled with contrivances and genre conventions, the action sequences set the film apart. Johnny Nguyen is flat-out amazing in his grace and control, while Dustin Nguyen more than holds his own in close-quarters fighting. Floating like a butterfly but stinging like a bee, Veronica Ngo, a dancer/model/singer/actress, looks extremely convincing as she fiercely defends her friends and her honor. Oh, and she's a babe and a half.