Beautiful and Exciting, FURIE (Hai Phượng) Tackles The Action-Thriller Genre With A Local Twist5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
An ex-gangster leads a relatively isolated, stable life with her daughter in the countryside, until her daughter gets abducted. The ex-gangster is relentless in her chase after the abductors, though, and she won’t stop until she gets her daughter back.
Director: Lê Văn Kiệt
Cast: Veronica Ngo, Cát Vy, Phan Thanh Nhiên, Phạm Anh Khoa
Runtime: 98 minutes
You’ve seen Taken, you’ve seen John Wick, you’ve probably even seen all three films of each. But regardless of its similar-sounding premise, you haven’t seen Furie. And it serves far more than you might imagine.
Furie follows Hai Phuong (Veronica Ngo), an ex-gangster from Saigon who is now single-handedly raising her child, Mai (Cát Vy), in the countryside. Hai Phuong and Mai are social pariahs in the community, with Hai Phuong working the unsavoury job of a debt collector and Mai being looked down upon by her peers for not having a father. The two of them literally only have each other, and after the abduction of Mai by a gang based in Saigon, the film shifts to follow Hai Phuong as she begins a desperate attempt to hunt down the people who have taken her precious daughter.
This is a familiar storyline that we’ve all seen play out on the big screen before, and Furie doesn’t stray away too much from the typical trajectory that is common for the genre. Instead, Lê Văn Kiệt breathes life into a stale narrative by giving it a fresh new look that sets it apart from its predecessors.
Furie is undeniably, unabashedly a Vietnamese film, not simply through the strategic use of Vietnam’s numerous beautiful landscapes. Hai Phuong, in her mission to hunt down her daughter’s kidnappers, uses a distinctively local style of martial arts, Vovinam, in her fights, and uses anything and everything that comes within her arm’s reach to emerge victorious. This can come in the form of durians, innocently sitting in a basket, or the vines of vegetables that are growing in one of Vietnam’s many rivers, or even joss sticks burning in a Buddhist altar. These uniquely local flavours add a new dimension to the overdone narrative; it is not simply another
Lê Văn Kiệt also provides a refreshing twist in the form of a new face to the action-thriller genre: women. Furie is helmed by the strong, independent, yet occasionally foolhardy and impulsive Hai Phuong, who is in every sense of the word a badass. Her martial arts skills are second only to the main antagonist, who is also, most refreshingly, a powerful woman. Women typically take up less space in films of this genre, yet in this women are not only the protagonist, but also play the antagonist and the supporting roles, with men being significantly less important to the plot.
Veronica Ngo, as Hai Phuong, delivers a strong performance in her portrayal of a desperate mother determined to go all out to save her missing child, and her emotional outburst halfway through the film provides a much-needed respite from the endless fighting and chasing. Cát Vy also sells her character as Mai, Hai Phuong’s socially-ostracised child, and under their immaculate depiction, Veronica Ngo and Cát Vy manage to bring realism into their characters and their characters’ relationships.
However, Furie does indulge a little too much in flashbacks to Hai Phuong’s martial arts past, and while it certainly does shape her into a more relatable character, it drags down the pace of the entire story. Furthermore, while her eventual reconciliation with her brother adds to the film’s underlying theme of family, her initial meeting with him seems to hint at a more significant contribution to the plot on his part — which fails to come into play.
Regardless of certain flaws in its storytelling, the film boasts of some great cinematography, and every screen is at once beautiful as it is evocative and atmospheric. The countryside of rural Vietnam is bathed in lush hues of yellows and greens, but this changes as Hai Phuong chases her daughter’s captors into unknown territory. The chiaroscuro of the neon-lit cityscape, marked by vivid yet flickering colours, paint an unsettling image of the underbelly of Saigon, where Hai Phuong has now trespassed into, which serves to heighten the tension of the plot. Coupled with an immaculate action choreography that matches sharp fighting movements with a thumping soundtrack, Furie is certainly a treat for the senses.
A renaissance in the action-thriller martial arts genre, Furie provides distinct, local flavours in a heart-pounding adventure through Vietnam, doused with beautiful visuals and backed by strong, immaculate acting.
You can catch Furie on Netflix. Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer here: