Director: Le Van Kiet
Writer: Le Van Kiet, Nguyen Trong Nhan
Starring: Veronica Ngo, Cat Vy, Phan Thanh Nhien, Phạm Anh Khoa, Tran Thanh Hoa
Never mess with a tigress guarding her cubs.
Le Van Kiet’s Furie has a standard action movie setup: a child is kidnapped, and the parent with deadly skills goes to the ends of the Earth and kicks a lot of ass to get them back. A simple premise like that is usually one of my favorites — John Wick is a simple revenge flick at its core — because the style and innovation has to come from well-executed action scenes and interesting character work.
I’m pleased to say that Furie has plenty of both.
The movie opens with Hai Phuong (Veronica Ngo) as a debt collector, making her collections around a rural town. This opening instantly drew me in with its slick camera work and Ngo’s impressive performance. We instantly get a sense of Hai Phuong based almost entirely on her physicality. She’s a badass. She also seems tired well beyond her years. Hai Phuong and her daughter Mai (Cat Vy) live a modest life, with the kindhearted Mai putting up with school bullies and Hai Phuong having to deal with gossip and scorn around town due to her job.
Furie quickly and literally cuts to the chase when Mai is kidnapped and Hai Phuong goes after her. This segment is the best part of the film, in my opinion. She fights in the marketplace, on a motorbike, and in the water trying to get her daughter back. Ngo gets to show off her fighting skills, using the Vietnamese martial art called Vovinam. Her movements are fast and furious, and she strikes like a crocodile lunging at its prey.
Her intense pursuit leads her into Ho Chi Minh City, the city she left in order to start over when she was pregnant with Mai. Along the way, she runs afoul of human traffickers, the police, and some faces from her past.
I really liked Hai Phuong as a character because she wasn’t given any tragic circumstances to soften who she is. She was a gangster who abandoned her parents and brother to start her life over with her daughter. However, we don’t see anything that forced her into the life of a gangster. Presumably she did it because she was really, really good at it. But she knows she’s been shitty to a lot of people. She ends up having to run a gauntlet of personal misery — getting rebuked by an old friend and her own brother — to rescue the best thing she’s ever done. It’s relatable. Not the kidnapped kid and wicked fighting skills part; making shitty decisions just because part.
Once Hai Phuong’s crusade to find her daughter pauses for a bit, the movie falters. We’re introduced to Detective Luong (Phan Thanh Nhien) who spends a lot of time being smart and cool and kinda boring and our main source of exposition. It’s fun to see him when he’s fighting later. For the most part, he’s there to be just behind or just ahead of Hai Phuong and make her look at the bigger picture.
Luckily, the movie nails the ending, with the final action setpiece taking place on a moving train. The camerawork throughout is fast but fluid, capturing the fight scenes well, and the cinematography is slick. It can be a cliché at this point, but I still love any movie that splashes red or green or blue lights all over a set. Furie is full of vivid colors like that
The thing that really landed for me was Ngo’s powerful work. She’s a natural action lead, and Hai Phuong was a compelling character. It’s also really neat that the most important relationships in the movie are between women. Hai Phuong and Mai is the obvious lynchpin. But the main villain is also a woman, and the nurse who helps Hai Phuong in the hospital connects with her because she’s a mother too. All of the badasses in Furie are women, and the men are either drunks, henchmen, unhelpful, or boring.
Furie is currently available on Netflix, and if you want a gender-swapped Taken with John Wick’s visuals, then you have to check it out.