Bitcoin Heist Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham, Veronica Ngo
  • Director: Ham Tran
  • Disc Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 4, 2017
  • Run Time: 110 minutes

        In making the Vietnamese caper movie, Bitcoin Heist, filmmaker Ham Tran seems to have pillaged an assortment of Hollywood heist films for inspiration. This foreign film has the sensibility of a Hollywood blockbuster, complete with an ensemble cast of actors, action sequences, comedic relief, and a few twists in the narrative. Often it not only feels like movies like Ocean’s 11 and Now You See Me, but actually borrows from them shamelessly, even including a magician in the narrative to align more with the latter. While this is far from original, it is mostly effective in creating an entertaining film.

        Although it eventually provides the kind of mindless spectacle one would expect from this type of entertainment, the beginning of Bitcoin Heist is unnecessarily convoluted, jumping back and forth in time before landing in the primary storyline in the near future. In 2020, bitcoin has replaced bills as the common currency, giving opportunity for hackers to become the most effective criminals. A team is put together in order to catch a notorious cyber-criminal known as “The Ghost,” headed up by law enforcement agent Dada (Kate Nhung). Realizing that she can’t catch this criminal in a typical fashion, Dada puts together a crew of her own crooks and swindlers, including her pickpocket magician ex-boyfriend, (Petey Majik Nguyen). The team also includes a disguise-wearing thief (Jayvee Mai The Hiep) and his resourcefully nimble daughter, as well as a hacker (Suboi), whose brother was put into a coma by “The Ghost.”

        Part revenge film, part heist movie, all high energy escapism, Bitcoin Heist is an ambitious effort for a Vietnamese film. Often the effort is extended beyond the filmmaking capabilities, with some of the cinematography and editing falling short, but the ambition is admirable nonetheless. Even if many of the twists and turns are a bit predictable, it never stops the film from being watchable. There is a nice balance between action, drama, and comedy, which helps keep the film engaging even through some of the filmmaking stumbles.

        At times Bitcoin Heist runs the risk of being too episodic, but this also has a way of working out in the film’s favor. If the confusing opening sequence is too hard to follow, it doesn’t much matter once we have moved on to the primary plot. And if the first heist sequence feels a little too familiar, another will replace it before long. Even if Bitcoin Heist is far from original, it steals from a large enough variety of films that there is likely to be something for everyone. Even if the cast is not made up of recognizable stars for American audiences, they are charming enough to help the film through some of the technical shortcomings.

        The tendency for a spectacle-driven film like this is to recommend high definition viewing, though there are so many visual shortcomings in Bitcoin Heist that it may do more damage than good. Some of the special effects are a bit sub-par, but the most difficult aspect to overlook is the way that the visual style of the cinematography changes from one sequence to the next. This is not helped by an often chaotic style of editing, which sometimes does its best to make sense out of the crazed handheld close-up photography. This is a film desperately in need of a light meter and a steadicam.

        The Blu-ray special features include only a trailer, although the package does come with a DVD copy of the film.

Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance:  5/10
Special Features: 1/10

1 comment:

Chris Kerr said...

We loved the film. What is especially remarkable is the view of contemporary Vietnam. After a week of watching Ken Burns' VIETNAM WAR, this was a completely different view of Vietnam, a refreshingly open, dynamic culture. As my son remarked, "These folks have watched a lot of American films." One small quibble: the Bitcoin wealth of the mogul in the film is said to be $7.5 million, barely a blip on the Billionaire radar. Huge fun, great characters, wonderfully acted. See it.