Furie (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A gritty and stylish Vietnamese female action flick

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Vietnamese action thriller film “Furie”, which is currently available on Netflix, tries to do something different within its genre territory, and I appreciated that even while noticing its imperfect aspects from time to time. Although it will instantly remind you of many other similar genre films such as “Taken” (2008), the movie still works as a gritty and stylish genre exercise, and there are a number of solid action sequences to be admired for considerable efforts and skills poured into them.

At the beginning, we get to know a bit about its heroine as she goes through another usual day of her shabby daily life. Since she left her old wild criminal life in Ho Chi Minh City around 10 years ago due to her unexpected pregnancy, Hai Phuong (Veronica Ngo) has lived alone with her young daughter Mai (Cát Vy) in some rural city, and the opening scene shows us how she struggles to earn her living as a debt collector working for a local loan shark. While she does not flinch from any occupational hazard at all as your average tough lady, she is not exactly a model employee for her boss, so she does not earn that much for herself and her daughter, but she is happy when she comes back to her home and spends time with her daughter.

Mai is frequently ridiculed by her schoolmates for her mother as shown from her first scene in the film, but she does not lose any of her spirit at all. While she is certainly not so happy to see her mother keep working as a debt collector, she loves and cares about her mother nonetheless, and she also hopes that she will run a small fish farm for earning enough money for them someday.

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Although she does not believe much in her daughter’s rather innocent aspiration, Hai Phuong decides to support her daughter as much as she can, so she later goes to a local marketplace with her daughter for selling a certain precious object she has kept to herself for years, but then something unexpected happens. While she is negotiating for the money she will get in exchange for that object, Mai is wrongfully accused of stealing a wallet, and she runs away from her mother when Hai Phuong chooses to believe what others around her say. As Hai Phuong is subsequently looking for Mai, she sees her daughter kidnapped by a couple of guys, so she immediately tries to stop them while tackling numerous obstacles on her way including a bunch of vicious goons, but her daughter is eventually taken to Ho Chi Minh City.

Quite determined to get her daughter back by any means necessary, Hai Phuong promptly goes to Ho Chi Minh City, and she soon finds herself walking into a seedy and dangerous underworld, which often reminds her of her old past as she continues her desperate search around the streets and alleys of the city. Through her old friend, she comes to learn that her daughter is kidnapped by a big criminal organization involved with human trafficking, and, not so surprisingly, it turns out this criminal organization has already kidnapped many other children around and outside the city for an unspeakably atrocious purpose.

While Hai Phuong goes to a police station for reporting the kidnapping of her daughter, she eventually decides to take care of the situation for herself because time is running out for her daughter minute by minute. Starting from a guy who was once involved with the criminal organization, she searches for where her daughter and other kidnapped children are being kept, and that accordingly leads her to the boss of the criminal organization, a tough, ruthless woman who may be more than a match for her.

As the story briskly moves from one narrative point to another, director Le-Van Kiet keeps us excited and entertained via its several splendid action sequences. During its first major action sequence, the movie deftly dials up and down the level of tension as steadily following its heroine, and its mix of various types of action is impressive to say the least. In case of a fight scene unfolded in a small garage, the movie wisely avoids quick cuts for vividly capturing every quick physical movement on the screen, and that certainly makes the scene quite electrifying.

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In addition, the movie is also equipped with considerable style and mood thanks to cinematographer Morgan Schmidt, who did a good job of establishing two contrasting atmospheres on the screen. While the rural scenes early in the movie are grounded in bright realistic mood, many of urban scenes later in the film are drenched in dark noirish ambience, and they constantly remind us of the perils and dangers surrounding our tough heroine.

The main performers of the movie are convincing in their respective roles. While Veronica Ngo is as striking as many other recent action movie heroines such as Charlize Theron’s character in “Atomic Blonde” (2017), young performer Cát Vy is likable as her daughter, and Phan Thanh Nhiên, Phạm Anh Khoa, and Trần Thanh Hoa are also effective as the substantial supporting characters of the film.

Although it is not entirely without weak aspects including its rather overwrought melodramatic elements, “Furie” has enough good things to compensate for these flaws, and it deserves more attention for bringing some fresh air into its genre territory. Yes, it is indeed a familiar stuff, but it is served with its own flavor and personality, and I like that.

Sidenote: I personally thank my fellow critic Nathanael Hood for making me interested in watching this film. Here’s the line to his wonderful review: http://bit.ly/2Hn0Mo7

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