Tran Anh Hungs brilliant film exposes to light how poverty and inexorable pressure of robber capitalism in high-crime area make ordinary people face ethical dilemma and experience problem of choice in a vibrant urban environment of modern Vietnam.
Tran Anh Hungs Cyclo is a sophisticated poetic tale of Ho Chi Minh City. It opens the door to a gloomy world of turbulent 90s in the Vietnams largest city, where misery runs in the family from generation to generation and hellish toil does not mean decent life. The movie focuses on times of so-called "doi moi" or market liberalization in Vietnam, when the government of the country took measures to make a transition from a command economy to a market-driven economical system of Western type (Narkunas 148), which was a huge challenge for the nation. During these transition times portrayed in the movie the corruption of state apparatus and hyperinflation of national currency were a commonplace, while unemployment and crime rates soared and caused social unrest in big cities. A great number of Ho Chi Minh City inhabitants were foredoomed to be trapped in a vicious circle of hard poverty and moral decadence, incoming crime waves and abrupt eruptions of street violence, gender bias and hopeless lack of opportunities for younger generation.
The protagonists of the movie represent the lower class of Vietnamese society that struggles hard to escape from grasp of misery. Each of them makes morally questionable choices all the way down in hope for better life. However, despite the fact all of the protagonists are tangled in a shady business, they are more to be pitied than censured. The story is told in a somewhat dismal strain. Its chronological narration is far from having a linear progression and often intermingles with colorful surrealistic scenes. The film is rich with vivid imagery, when