I’ll cut right to the chase: it was difficult to find anything to criticize in this gem of an action flick, and audiences who enjoy martial arts, women who kick ass, and gorgeous cinematography should probably check out Furie as soon as humanly possible.
Veronica Ngo (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is a force to be reckoned with as Hai Phuong, a former gang member from Saigon trying to live a quiet life in a rural village. When her young daughter (Cat Vy) is kidnapped, Hai Phuong is determined to rescue her and destroy those responsible for her disappearance.
What this film lacks in the originality of its premise, it makes up for in tense, tightly choreographed action sequences and impeccable pacing. As the story moves from the open spaces of rural life to the cramped buildings and labyrinthine passages of Saigon, the stakes get higher and the action more feverish. Long, sweeping shots of the Vietnamese countryside give way to claustrophobic, gritty, and highly aestheticized fight scenes in concrete rooms. While the outcome is predictable, the setting and atmosphere along the way nicely mirror Hai Phuong’s own mounting emotional and psychological distress.
Despite the drama and frantic tension, Furie isn’t a film that takes itself too seriously. Director Lê Văn Kiệt is hyper-aware of the genre tropes of both Asian and American action films that inform his work and isn’t afraid to point them out – sometimes with a subtle nod and sometimes with an exaggerated wink. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea (it certainly interrupts the suspension of disbelief), but it also offers a needed reprieve from the adrenaline-infused action.
All that aside, Furie is not perfect. Hai Phuong’s flashbacks to her gangster-past that are littered throughout the film often feel forced and even unnecessary. Furthermore, the musical score, while well suited to the scenes of rapid hand-to-hand combat, is intrusive and melodramatic at others.
It is Ngo’s gripping and committed performance as Hai Phuong that carries the film through these awkward moments. In another actress’ hands, the character could have become just another one-dimensional action heroine, but Ngo brings a rawness and energy to the screen that makes her so much more than just a bad-ass woman. There is something animalistic in Hai Phuong’s disregard for her own safety, a maternal self-denial that is both heart-warming and gut-wrenching to behold.
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