She will never stop
There are few cinematic thrills greater than discovering a brand new emerging talent in the action filmmaking world. One thrill that DOES top that is discovering that said talent isn’t “emerging” at all, but rather already has an awesome, time-tested body of work from which to sample and enjoy. Such was my experience in watching Veronica Ngo’s star vehicle Furie, from Vietnam. The trailer sold me on the film. A gender swapped Taken with a killer tiger mom rescuing her kidnapped daughter and punishing the captors? Absolutely sign me up. I need no further details.
Ignorant of Ngo’s previous work (and that of this filmmaking team), I watched with jaw agape as Furie dished out bone-crunching fight sequences and heart warming melodrama in equal measure. Ngo completely commanded the screen and the filmmaking was vivid and energetic. I was shocked, then, to find that Ngo played the small but pivotal role of Paige Tico (sister of Rose) in The Last Jedi! Not only that, but Ngo has prominently featured in several Vietnamese action films of note. I took the opportunity to track down a couple of those titles, namely Clash and The Rebel. That’s all it took for me to dub Ngo a full on Queen of action cinema. She gracefully dominates in four out of the four films of hers that I have seen. But Furie is the only film among them which truly stars Ngo as the central character, and she rules the screen with ferocity.
Here Ngo plays Hai, a former streetwise gangster who walked away from it all when she became a mother. Living in total rural obscurity and raising her daughter Mai (Cat Vy in a precocious performance), it’s clear that she is struggling in a variety of ways. One of Furie’s strengths is actually having the courage to not make Hai a particularly likeable lead character at first. She’s angry and does some debt collection work to make ends meet, which Mai greatly disapproves of. It’s amidst a fierce mother/daughter argument that Mai is kidnapped, an event which is random and having nothing to do with who Hai used to be. Unfortunately for the kidnappers, Hai has a special set of skills. While the Taken comparisons are apt and ripe for picking, the way Furie plays out really doesn’t feel similar to Taken at all. Where Taken’s Bryan Mills has resources and connections, Hai is a woman alone who must spring into action instantly as she witnesses her child being taken. Hai is desperate and out of practice, totally without any resources beyond her own relentless determination as a mother who happens to know how to beat some asses.
Much of the appeal of Furie is its extremely basic premise. Terminator-like mother will stop at absolutely nothing to get her daughter back from kidnappers. The thrills come from the show-stopping fight sequences and the drama is derived from the human stakes of the set up. I’m not here to tell you that Furie reinvents any wheels. It doesn’t. But it sets up and pays off an action movie that easily gets you pumping your fist and feeling emotionally invested as well.
Much of that has to do with the aforementioned action queen Veronica Ngo. But the filmmaking team is on point in Furie. It’s a good-looking movie that makes a case for a visually compelling Vietnam as a thrilling place to set a film. The Winding-Refn/John Wick-inspired colored lighting is fun. And the action is the ultimate test for something like this, which is great because it rules. The bonus features on the Blu-ray release indicate that some French action film veterans (Kefi Abrikh and Yannick Ben) handled much of the action, stunts, and fight choreography, and have made quite a calling card for themselves in the process. There are some one-on-one fights, car chases, tight-quarters melees, and even some gun battles. They’re all really top notch work that bolster a stripped down but effective story.
There’s a pure simplicity to Furie that might make it too slight for some people’s liking. I found it to be refreshing to watch a star emerge before my very eyes in Veronica Ngo and to see her emote compellingly and kick ass effectively from one scene to the next. There’s also a build up to perhaps the most exciting action set piece all the way at the end, so Furie feels well paced and balanced. This is one of the best action films of 2019.
I noted that the film looks pretty gorgeous. Vietnam is captured with vibrancy and Veronica Ngo completely owns the screen as well. In terms of bonus features, there’s a very simple behind the scenes featurette and a trailer. You can apparently watch the film in English, too, which I will never do. I highly recommend watching Furie, but the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack may not be essential to own.
And I’m Out.
Furie is available now on Blu-ray/DVD from Well Go USA