Ngo takes directing reins in loose prequel to acclaimed Furie
Veronica Ngo is one of the reigning queens on the planet right now in the action cinema space.
She had an amazing year in 2022 with The Princess, one of the very best action films of the year, in which she had a supporting/mentor role to Joey King’s lead and teamed up once again with director Le Van Kiet, who helmed international breakout hit Furie in 2019. With a long and illustrious career in action cinema from her native Vietnam (The Rebel and Clash are early 2000s gems), Ngo has lately been breaking out in more international projects like The Last Jedi, The Old Guard, and the aforementioned Princess.
Well, it looks like 2023 is going to be another great year for Ngo as she not only stars in what will easily be one of the great action films of 2023, but also directs as well. Furies is a bit of a period piece (though I’m not sure it provides an exact date, it feels 1980s/1990s) and a loose prequel to Furie. It’s also being released globally on Netflix, so it’ll reach audiences worldwide.
2019’s Furie is an extremely stripped down and focused action film, a bit of a female Taken where Ngo’s Hai Phuong must unearth her long hidden “special set of skills” when her daughter is kidnapped. It’s an absolute banger that started me down my own Ngo rabbit trail. Furies gives us a look at how that character came to those special set of skills in a much more sprawling and intricate crime action epic format. A Raid to Raid 2 comparison wouldn’t be entirely ridiculous to make. Curiously, Ngo isn’t reprising her role, but rather our lead in Furies is a character known as Bi. Bi faces sexual trauma and the violent loss of her mother early in the film. She’s rightly traumatized and wanders Saigon aimlessly where she’s vulnerable to further assault. But she’s a scrapper and a fighter and eventually she’s taken in by Ngo’s Mrs. Lin. There she meets new friends Thanh and Hong. But it’s rough going as she must prove herself to her new found family and Lin isn’t solely taking them in out of the kindness of her heart. Mrs. Lin has a mission. They’re going to train, they’re going to be merciless, and they’re going to take down the local crime syndicate who traffic in selling women like animals. The Furies are born and they will absolutely murder you.
Dong Anh Quynh takes the lead here as Bi, and she’s equal parts feral, beautiful, and capable. Ngo is no action novice and crafts a street level brawler film that features all kinds of close quarters, hand to hand combat that’s captured intimately and smoothly; and with vibrant energy. Somehow lead Dong Anh Quynh manages to shine through all of what is demanded of her and anchors this project with grace. Friend Thanh is the fierce and brooding protector, and the playful Hong is somewhat of a Vietnamese Harley Quinn. Their path to vengeance against the misogynist gangsters plaguing their city will not be a smooth one, and I’ll save the various twists and turns of the plot for those who are interested in checking the movie out for themselves. But needless to say, Ngo’s action cinema roots are on full display here and Furies feels like a Hong Kong style heroic bloodshed tale, with maximal melodrama to accompany the flying fists and bullet ballet.
There’s no shortage of action in Furies, varying from martial arts battles to gun fights to a pretty ambitious motorcycle chase that’s perhaps aided by too much CGI, but which still feels stylish and exciting. The action choreography feels, to me, like somewhat of a “smoothy cam” approach. The audience is frequently right there in the midst of the fight with punches and kicks almost connecting with the camera. And the camera is highly dynamic. Some might complain the the tightness and motion of the camera have a “shakey cam” vibe, but I found the dynamism was accompanied by a fluidity and also some fairly long takes, allowing us to see multiple moves, kicks, or holds all in a single fluid motion. Liberal usage is made out of dutch angles to see a particular kick land and this is a joy to watch.
I look forward to revisiting Furie after enjoying this epic prequel and while it’s a little confusing that Ngo plays different characters in the 2 films, fans of Hong Kong cinema will almost certainly be able to look right past that frequently employed trope to enjoy both of these entries in one of the best female-fronted action franchises going right now. Ngo’s talent is unquestioned and Furies gives me hope that we’ll continue to see her explore new territory in her career and share the depth of Vietnamese action cinema talent with an ever-expanding global market.
And I’m Out.
Furies hits Netflix US on March 23rd, 2023