Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Lone Lioness and Cub
From Vietnamese director Le-Van Kiet, Furie stars Veronica Ngo as an ex-gangster turned ruthless debt collector named Phuong. Her daughter, Mai (Cat Vy), is bullied for her family’s hustler reputation. Phuong intends for Mai to study hard and get good grades in order to succeed in a life that is nothing like her own, but Mai wants to quit school to become a fish farmer in order to help her struggling mother. Shortly thereafter, Mai is kidnapped by a trafficking ring and Phuong will do whatever it takes to get her back.
The action in this Vietnamese martial arts thriller has been compared to both The Raid and Taken in other reviews, but I was getting more of an Ong-Bak meets The Man From Nowhere vibe throughout the film. The marketplace brawl is the first big action sequence and it’s all flying elbows and swift kicks to the mid-section until it culminates with Ngo bashing the side of a man’s face with a Durian fruit. Everything that takes place on the train is the reason fans love martial arts films. Phan Thanh Nhien stars as lead police investigator Luong and his ability to utilize handcuffs during a three-man melee in the tight space of a train car is incredibly impressive. Tran Thanh Hoa is massively cool as the villain of the film. She has this Zoe Bell kind of tough woman demeanor; a confidence and a swagger that is impossible to ignore because she knows she’s a strong and powerful woman that people shouldn’t mess with.
Other than Phan Thanh Nhien, Furie is a film where woman are in power. The man who made Phuong pregnant isn’t in the picture and she’s as independent as they come, a woman is in charge of the biggest child trafficking ring around, and Phuong's former lackey now runs the night club in Saigon. The film briefly touches on the hopelessness that must be pulsing through Phuong’s mind. Furie jumps from the rural countryside to the overpopulated cityscape of Saigon; the bustling cars, cluster of giant skyscrapers, and sheer mass of people make the possibility of finding Mai slim to none.
The downside of Furie is that its story is so simple that it’s almost nonexistent and things are overwhelmingly corny by the end of the film. You may be quick to point out that you typically don’t turn to a foreign martial arts film expecting great acting or groundbreaking writing, but it still deserves to be mentioned. What’s funny to Vietnamese culture will probably be lame for Americans. There’s a nurse who helps Phuong escape a hospital in the middle of the film that rambles about her sons and never knows when to shut up, which got a lot of laughs in the theater. Mai’s persistence to undermine her mother, argue constantly, and whine about everything was also humorous to others in the audience. Mai is embarrassed by her mother early on in the film when she refuses to take Mai’s side in a public dispute. It’s an event that sparks Mai’s abduction and gives purpose to Mai’s lashing out from time to time.
There’s a scene near the end of the film between Veronica Ngo and Cat Vy that is just loaded with overacting and unnecessary emotional baggage. It feels like nothing more than a chance for the two actresses to cry at each other and give long-winded speeches about things the audience has already figured out by that point. It’s a sequence that is sandwiched between two fairly awesome fight scenes, so it’s easy to overlook.
Furie isn’t without its faults as the acting is either too little or completely over the top and nowhere in between and the one-dimensional story is so basic that it comes off as unoriginal, but Furie doesn’t drag anything out over its 98-minute duration. The film is mostly about one woman kicking ass to save her daughter and Furie showcases that extremely well. Veronica Ngo and Tran Thanh Hoa could fight each other all day and it would be amazing. Even with its flaws, Furie is a one-woman juggernaut loaded with an arsenal of face-smashing, motorcycle-crunching, stab-you-eight-times-before-you hit-the-ground action.
© 2019 Chris Sawin