Furie came onto my radar because it’s a martial arts film starring Veronic Ngo. She’s been popping up in movies lately, most notably a small role in The Last Jedi and minor role in the head scratching sequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I, however, remember her from The Rebel, a 2007 martial arts film starring and action directed by Johnny Nguyen. You may remember him as the staircase boss from the infamous one take scene in Tony Jaa’s Tom Yum Goon. While it’s been awhile since I’ve seen The Rebel, I remember being pretty impressed with Veronica’s ability as a martial artist. Strangely though, more than 10 years later, I finally get to see her in another martial arts role that isn’t a throw away character like in Crouching Tiger 2.
Furie is an abduction story that also includes the “…you messed with the wrong _______, and now you’re gonna pay…” trope. Veronica Ngo plays as Hai Phuong, a debt collector living in the country side with her daughter, Mai. One day Mai is “taken” while her mother is distracted and so the wheels in motion begin turning as she desperately tries to get her back. It’s a movie that we’ve all seen before just with new settings and more a culturally relevant underbelly. Here we swap sex trafficking in Europe for organ harvesting in South East Asia. The movie does give us of plenty of time to understand Hai Phuong and Mai’s living situation and their relationship as mother and daughter. I thought Mai’s realistic attitude to dropping school and trying to help her mother income came across as mature but also very sad. Veronica Ngo portrays frustration with her situation very well and you would almost forget that this is also supposed to be an action movie.
So as someone who wanted to see this film for the action, how does it hold up?
Well this was becoming a really concerning question as I sat through about 3 to 4 actions scenes scattered throughout the film that are unfortunately just mediocre. Nothing was particularly shot in an interesting manner or we didn’t get any intricate choreography. The chase scene when Mai is kidnapped should have been frantic and strenuous. Instead the pacing felt all over the place and oddly slow. I can understand the difficulty of making a tiny motorbike vs. riverboat look eclectic but at least make it look fast! This would be one of the few instances where I’ll say this action scene needed MORE editing. Hand to hand fights didn’t fare very well either. I thought this would be a good vehicle for Veronica Ngo to show off anything she’s been holding back since The Rebel but all of the encounters between her and any henchman were unfortunately forgettable.
Because I was feeling pretty let down by the action, I tried to find positives about the rest of the movie but had some difficulty doing that as well. I did enjoy the neon lights bathing all the dark halls and alleyways as Hai Phuong searches for Mai in Saigon. I felt like they could have pushed this even further but what we got was substantial. Also there’s a surprisingly funny exchange between Hai Phuong and a sympathetic nurse in a hospital that lightens the mood but is really out of place in this action/drama. Veronica Ngo does a great job at committing to this “tiger” mom character who’s doing anything it takes while also emoting her anguish. It’s definitely hard to gauge acting when I can’t understand the language being spoken, but her constant weathered face read clearly as exhausted and desperate.
Surprisingly, the movie does end on a high note for anyone looking to scratch that action itch. First, the character Detective Luong who’s been trailing her throughout the film joins in on the last confrontation as the 2 of them board a train carrying abducted children. While most of the fights are still pretty mediocre, actor Thanh Nhien Phan gets small little moments to stand out like with a handcuff takedown against 2 assailants. It’s also here where Veronica Ngo finally shines with some great choreography that’s shot and edited like they knew they were saving it all for the end. The first one involved Hai Phuong gaining the upper hand against the final boss with knives as she lacerates joints and spin kicks her way to victory. The audience cheered at this takedown and I was just pleasantly surprised to see it in here. The final action scene has Hai Phuong taking out armed gunman in a very slick and stylized way that’s very reminiscent of John Wick but in a good way. I was almost surprised to see these 2 scenes so far at the end of the movie because at this point I had already given up on considering this a martial arts recommendation.
I’m hesitant to say that the higher quality fight scenes saved this movie but they did make me feel better as I left the theater. If you’re a martial arts enthusiast I’d say check it out but be ready to sit through some run of the mill encounters before the main course. I hope we get to see Veronica Ngo move on to higher profile action projects as she’s an actress who can effectively smash your face with a durian while also showing a believable emotional range.