The Sad Story Of Saigon (1993)

Directed by: Sek Bing-Chan
Written by: ?
Producer: Kwok Siu-Ping
Starring: Lam Ching-Ying, Andy Dai, Shum Wai, Wu Fung, Sophia Crawford, Jeff Falcon, Choi Jeong-Il & Hon Gwok-Choi

More commonly referred to as Rape In Public Sea, after underperforming in Taiwan, this Lam Ching-Ying action-drama was reportedly re-edited for Hong Kong release where some of the action (involving Jeff Falcon and Sophia Crawford) was let go in favour of Tommy Cheng directed sex scenes to bump it to the adults only Category III rating and its commercial appeal in the process (in 1993 that WAS a commercial move even it it didn't pan out for every cheap sex movie that was made). Even conceived as a modern day Zatoichi originally (an angle that was dropped), original director Sek Bing-Chan left the project around the time the story structure changed and an uncredited Shum Wai stepped in as director. (1*) Not that The Sad Story Of Saigon is an underperformer that had underrated quality however. Sex was clearly added to make it more tolerable.

Essentially a story of a group of Vietnamese immigrants (Lam Ching-Ying, Andy Dai, Wu Fung and Hon Gwok-Choi) who's all had their lives disrupted to ruined by corrupt Mainland army officer Yuen Wan-Tat (Choi Jeong-Il) and now decides to take a stand against him. Starts with a gang conflict with Hong Kong gangster Lu Fang Chun (Shum Wai). All while cop Claudia (Sophia Crawford) is also out to get Yuen, for personal reasons...

There's no lack of opportunities in a 90s cheapie as low budget grit can still translate to actual grit but The Sad Story Of Saigon is also a sad story of all things flat, poorly written, shot, told. Favouring the basic framework story for their outlet of action and a little bit of drama, the film does not survive through its threadbare framework either. While the opening is a fine setup for Choi Jeong-Il's über-evil character as his men coldly execute pirates on a fishing boat, much of the subsequent setup is rather boring. We meet, our immigrants, see them go about their day as working men and women, reminisce about the bad times and that they all should do something about it. Having an almost pasted in story about Crawford's cop accompanying all this only leads to the majority of the narrative action being dull. All done in uninspiring, flat, standing locations. Even IFD's Godfrey Ho footage looked more lovely than this.

So with a lack of character that would've been fine had other elements featured drive, Lam Ching-Ying is occasionally iconic, Shum Wai and Choi Jeong-Il suitably vile as villains but the true standouts are our two Western cast members. Sophia Crawford and in particular Jeff Falcon comes off very well in the action scenes and it's a delight to see these performers often getting less of a spotlight make the action-frame sporadically exhilarating. Ultimately The Sad Story Of Saigon tries to gradually make characters lives miserable and increase the level of violence but with most of those potentially eye browsing moments OFF screen, no wonder it's a very dull and sparse experience with not as much teeth as it thinks.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson


1) Thanks to Mike Leeder for supplying the behind the scenes information and viewers are also able to catch him as a performer in the film, demonstrating weaponry for Choi Jeong-Il's character.