QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Child screams. Run! Jump! Punch! Ouch. Now punch the second guy! Kick the third one! Shoot, shoot and shoot! Sword fight. Cut that throat! Blood gushes. Fight 50 males off entirely on your own. Vroom!!! Ram that lorry into them. Then punch and kick 20 more villains, this time all of them females. Roll down that mountain and survive virtually unscathed. More punching. Pow! Kaboom! Shazam: he survives! Child kicks and screams. Run, hide, jump. Oops. Explosion! Boom! Blood everywhere. Fgfhg***jhgjv,jh!!! Child kicks and screams again. Now to the big villain. Pow! This more or less gives you an idea of what happens in this insufferable Vietnamese movie.
And now the alternative synopsis: loving lorry driver Hung (Alexandre Nguyen) wants to revenge his daughter, who was kidnapped and tortured by a ruthless millionaire. The villain is supported by a horde of bloodthirsty men and women. Our hero successfully fights off every single one of them in order to confront the bad guy, in what’s intended to be a martial arts bonanza. In fact, Nguyen does indeed look like Bruce Lee. I just don’t think the Hong Kong actor would be very impressed with this Vietnamese concoction. He is probably rolling in his coffin instead.
The fighting takes place from the very beginning, in a film with hardly any room for character development and even a coherent narrative arc. Most of the time, you are left wondering how Hung survives, and the latest evil-looking character fits into the story. I could hardly make heads from tails, and – quite frankly – I couldn’t even be bothered. Top it all up with one of the worst and most annoying child actors you will ever come across. The only real skill of 578 Magnum is adhering to every conceivable cliche of the action thriller.
Those hoping for a journey into a fascinating Southeast Asian country are in for a disappointment. Magnum 578 doesn’t even provide any significant insights into Vietnamese culture. This a a movie that could have taken place virtually anywhere in the world.
I don’t have an issue with a-list festivals picking genre movies for their main competitive strand. But that can be troublesome if the movie is trivial and unimaginative. This can be particularly challenging with a genre as trite and exhausted as the action thriller. Here is another example of another recent and similarly disappointing pick.
578 Magnum is in the Official Competition of the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Count yourself luck if you survive an hour into the film. Very few films have annoyed me as much as this one recently. Mind, however: not everyone seems to agree with me. British grandee Mike Newell, who was the president of the Jury at Tallinn just three years ago, has showered the film with praise, and his name is indeed one of the very first to appear on screen, although it’s not entirely clear what role the director Two Weddings and Funeral (1994) and Harry Potter and The Globet of Fire (2005) played in the production.