Furie (2019), directed by Le-Van Kiet, is an Asian martial arts action thriller, starring Veronica Ngo (Hai Phuong), Mai Cát Vi (Mai), Phan Thanh Nhiên (Detective Luong), Phạm Anh Khoa (Truc) and Trần Hoa (Thanh Soi).
The film is similarly modeled on the action Hollywood franchise “Taken” where someone is taken or killed and someone with a particular set of unique skills will make those responsible pay. In Le-Van Kiet’s film, a child is abducted and the mother, a former gangster with kick-ass martial arts skills, will stop at nothing to get her back and make those responsible pay. The title references the quotation, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but in this case the woman’s fury is triggered when the object of her love is taken away.
Ngo (Hai Phuong) gives a nuanced performance as the strong female heroine demonstrating not only fighting prowess but rendering a sympathetic performance of the aggrieved mother who will stop at nothing to recover her child set against the machinations of a seedy lot of reprehensible gangsters in modern Vietnam. The movie plot poses a number of intriguing questions. Will she succeed and recover her child alive? Will she survive the ordeal?
Hai Phuong, a former gangster, is working as a bad-ass debt collector in a riverside coastal town, raising her intelligent and sassy young daughter as a single parent. When her daughter Mai is wrongly accused of stealing someone’s wallet, she runs away. Mai is upset over the fact that her mother doesn’t believe her and doesn’t stand up for her against total strangers. The little girl is spotted by some riverboat thugs, abducted and spirited away. Hai Phuong chases after them and takes many out but loses them in the end but not before learning that they are on the way to Saigon. In the capital, Hai Phuong tries to get help from her former gangster colleagues but is brushed off. She goes to the police to report the disappearance of her daughter and while there manages to put two and two together and steal the dossiers of suspected criminals involved in the abduction of children. She tracks down a criminal name Truc and nearly kills him. She spares his life and he tells her where the thugs are based in Saigon and about their operation. Meanwhile, Detective Luong, the lead investigator in the case of missing children, is on her trail.
Hai Phuong finds their base of operations and takes out many of the thugs. She offers her life in exchange for her daughter’s but the gangster boss, Thanh Soi, refuses. She fights Thanh Soi but is defeated. Thanh Soi orders her men to dump her in the river but Hai Phuong learns of their plans before she loses consciousness. She is saved by Detective Luong and his men. She wakes up in the hospital and realizes she is under police watch and time is running out. She convinces her nurse to help her escape who does so willing when she learns and understands what is at stake. The escape provides an element of comedic humor in the film. Hai Phuong escapes and turns to her brother for help but he refuses out of spite because of her past actions. Detective Luong finds Hai Phuong and tries to persuade her to let him do his job and not to interfere with his investigation. She tells him what she knows and he reluctantly lets her go but then he follows her onto the train.
They fight off the thugs and Hai Phuong breaks free and makes her way to the cabin that is holding her daughter. Along the way, she meets up again with Thanh Soi and finally kills her. Detective Luong and Hai Phuong are separated when the train splits and go in different directions. Hai Phuong is reunited with her child but only to face a new danger when the train arrives at its destination and waiting there is another set of thugs. She takes them on and nearly defeats them when she is shot. If you want to find out what happens to Hai Phuong and her daughter Mai, well, you’re going to have to see the film.
The fighting scenes in the film impress and the dramatic tension never lets up as the resourceful Hai Phuong fights her way out of and uses her brains to get out of impossible situations to rescue her child. The director has woven together many visual elements including flashbacks, time-lapse, superimposed images, various editing and cinematic techniques to create a compelling film where evil meets revenge. Furie has all the elements of a classic feel-good movie and its positive storyline will delight audiences. I would have liked to have learned Thanh Soi’s backstory. Hai Phuong’s backstory is told within the narrative of the film which gives her character depth and complexity but the same attention to detail isn’t extended to Thanh Soi, her nemesis. It would have given the film another layer of complexity and interest. The subtext of the film is, after all, two women battling it out over diverse goals and ideologies. Hai Phuong is trying to save her daughter’s life and Thanh Soi is trying to profit from the girl’s life. Nevertheless, it’s a great film and a compelling film due in part to Ngo’s performance as the aggrieved mother standing up to deplorable and sickening evil and horror. Her performance and fighting scenes are riveting and will hold your attention.
The theme of child abduction resonated with me on an intellectual and emotional level since the human trafficking of young females and girls into the sex trade industry has long been a problem and remains a problem in many Asian countries. It makes me angry. Why is this evil allowed to continue? Why hasn’t the world put an end to it? The harshness of the film’s subject matter is balanced by the special mother/child bond between Hai Phuong and her daughter Mai, and the extent she goes to protect her child from harm.
If you are a fan of martial arts films, you’ll love it. If you are a fan of Asian films like me, you’ll love it for its style of filmmaking and cinematic storytelling. The film will appeal to many for its positive storyline. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed.
Well Go USA releases Furie in Canada on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray combo June 25th