Sunday, February 24, 2019

Furie (2019)

Director: Le-Van Kiet
Notable Cast: Veronica Ngo (Ngô Thanh Vân), Cat Vy, Phan Thanh Nhiên, Pham Anh Khoa, Trần Thanh Hoa 

Veronica Ngo’s (Ngô Thanh Vân) career has been a fascinating one to behold. Truthfully, the first time I really recognized her star power was after both The Rebel and Clash hit US markets, but she’s been doing fantastic work for quite some time. Unfortunately, despite her obvious talents, her big break never really came in the US. She has certainly been in some big films. It’s just too bad that most of the roles she gets are thankless cameos more than anything. Yes, I’m looking at my copy of Star Wars: The Last Jedi right now. However, there has been a lot of hype in the action cinema community for her latest vehicle, Furie. Some impressive trailers and a distinctly neon slathered John Wick meets Ong Bak look to the film did it a lot of favors. The film is even getting a limited theatrical run in the US, courtesy of our friends at Well Go USA, here shortly. If it’s coming to a city near you and you’re an action fan, buy your ticket now. Furie is a wild ride of brutal beat downs, neon-soaked grittiness, and good old-fashioned entertainment. It’s not a film that inherently tries anything new with its story or characters, but impressive execution in direction, fight choreography, and a truly fantastic performance from Veronica Ngo make it a surprisingly vicious and effective little action flick.

Plot and narrative wise, Furie plays things fairly safe. Ngo plays Hai Phuong, a woman who took to the country to escape her life as a gangster when she discovered she was pregnant. There she works as a low-level debt collector and life is hard, but she does her best for her daughter who aspires to open a small business selling fish. When her daughter is abducted, she must set aside her new life, head back to the city, and crack some damn skulls to get her back.

Sounds familiar, huh? Well, in a lot of ways Furie is hardly breaking new ground. Shades of Taken, Ong Bak, and John Wick are all worn proudly on its sleeves. It’s not hard to see that the film does occasionally struggle with its narrative and finding the right cohesive pace and depth. Flashbacks to Hai Phuong’s past can be strangely placed, there are a handful of subplots – including one with her brother – that are forced into the film, and many of the secondary characters are underdeveloped and severely under served. Most predominately, the police officer that ends up helping her out in the second half could have used a lot more screen time to develop the chemistry and motivations for his arrival. However, the film never pretends to want to be anything more than just a great action film which is powered by emotion and pummeling in its action and style. It plays to its strengths and hopes its audience is willing to go for the ride.

The strengths for Furie very much reside in the two body parts that power the film: the fist and the heart. At its core, this film truly feels like a cinematic vehicle for Veronica Ngo and she handedly holds her own to carry it. Whether it’s the chemistry she shows with her daughter that gives the film its emotional beating heart or the impressive physical power she exudes in the wickedly explosive action sequences, Ngo OWNS this film. When it’s focused on her, that’s when Furie soars. She delivers on the emotional moments as her character must face her past mistakes and she delivers on the action. The fast paced chase sequence to save her daughter initially, a fight scene that uses a motorbike garage setting to maximum effect, or the finale that features some impressively shot and edited fights in a train, on a train, and a no edit gun battle outside on the train platform make this the first big action film for fans to devour this year.

Furie is a film that takes a rather generic and predictable plotting and raises it to the next level with a fantastic lead performance, jaw dropping action, and a great sense of style that takes the visual cues and color swaths of John Wick and embeds it into the gritty and neon powered underworld of Vietnam. Often enough, Furie is the kind of film that more traditional cinephiles tend to overlook because it doesn’t try to deviate too far from the tried and true formula. Hopefully, if you are reading this, then you’re open to this film already. If you are, do not skip it. It may have a script that is patchy and predictable, but the execution of its intentions are impressive.

It’s about time that Veronica Ngo received a film that showcases her talents in full. Furie is that film. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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