Starting life as a short and revised and expanded over several years until it reached feature length, Leroy Nguyen’s Black Scar Blues is a prime example of the DIY action film. A gritty, microbudget martial arts/gangster film that does a lot with almost no money and a cast of amateurs.
Roy (Leroy Nguyen) and Eddie (Edmond Shum) are two you thugs dealing drugs and breaking bones as they try to work their way up in the Baltimore underworld. Eddie is the brains of the pair, cool and businesslike in his dealings while Roy is all muscle, bad temper and ambition. This leads to problems when the son of his boss assaults Tracey (Jen Barnard) Roy’s hooker girlfriend and he responds brutally before going into hiding. Now he’s back looking to make amends, and in the process setting off a chain of violence and revenge.
I was a little worried when it started on a hella cliché note, one of the leads lighting a smoke while spouting tough guy philosophy in voice over. While the voice overs are a constant thing, probably due to the cost of filming live sound and the multiple rewrites it went through, the rest of the film avoids being cliched. It doesn’t tell a particularly original story, but it has enough twists to keep it fresh and compelling. It feels like a Hong Kong action film set in, and filtered through the US. Citing the likes of Martin Scorsese, Ryoo Seung Hwan, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Takeshi Kitano as inspiration, it’s a truly multicultural film.
Of course it’s the fight scenes that make or break a film like this and Black Scar Blues delivers the goods here. The two leads are also the fight choreographers and it shows. There’s some great full on fights and beat downs on display here. And they’re not the flashy wire fu fights we frequently see these days, these have a real feeling to them. And that’s only fitting, because this film is much closer to Mean Streets than Flashpoint.
If you’re still undecided, some of their other shorts are available for free on their website https://www.risingtigerfilms.com/ they should convince you if this hasn’t. Black Scar Blues is available via VOD and digital download on most major platforms.