You might not know her name, but you probably know her face. Veronica Ngo stars in 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the brief but pivotal role of Paige Tico, and that same year saw her streaming into millions of homes as a badass elf in Netflix’s Bright. Those films both had large audiences, but her best work has been in far smaller movies that allow her the opportunity to flex both her acting chops and her fighting skills. The Rebel (2007), Clash (2009), and Once Upon a Time in Vietnam (2013) are terrifically entertaining action pics from her native Vietnam, and now, after dabbling in big fantasies and Hollywood productions, she’s back on familiar ground with thrilling, adrenaline-pumping results. Furie is worth the wait.
Hai (Ngo) is a single mom who pays the bills by working as a hard-hitting debt collector and enforcer in a small coastal community outside Saigon. She left a far more glamorous life behind in the city after becoming pregnant and running afoul of some bad people — people worse than even she had let herself become. It’s not ideal, but she and young Mai are safe. Well, until they’re not. Mai is abducted one morning at the market, and while Hai gives a spirited chase she’s forced to watch as her daughter is driven off into the distance by unknown abductors. She quickly realizes the men have taken her to Saigon, and she immediately follows with a single goal in mind. She’s going to find her daughter and kick any ass foolish enough to stand in her way. Okay, two goals…
The plot basics of writer/director Le-Van Kiet‘s Furie couldn’t be more basic — it’s a story found in numerous action movies and most famously memorialized in the Liam Neeson-starring Taken (2008) — but the action genre isn’t typically measured on the originality of its plots. Someone is abducted or killed, and someone else with a particular set of skills makes those responsible pay. The trick is in the execution, and on that front Kiet and Ngo are firing on all cylinders alongside fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, 2018) and action director Yannick Ben (Ghost in the Shell, 2017). The action is crisp and exciting, the drama hits as hard as Ngo punches, and it’s photographed with an eye for beauty.
Viewers familiar with Ngo’s Vietnamese films already know she’s a charismatic and talented performer, both as an actor and a fighter, but Furie sees her step up her game with a powerhouse performance that forces you to pay attention. From the loss of her child to the realization that she’s knee-deep in a ring of villains responsible for kidnapping and killing children, Hai’s journey is one fraught with blood, bruises, and terror. Ngo sells the pain, and she’s equally convincing as an ass-kicker. Female heroes in this kind of tale often have to learn the skills necessary for revenge, but Hai merely has to unleash what she already knows. Chase scenes, brutal fights, and exhilarating set-pieces follow including fisticuffs on boats, trains, and motorcycles.
It all looks fantastic too. The fights obviously impress, but even the more peaceful moments captivate thanks to sharp cinematography. The bright and lush greens of rural Vietnam are simply gorgeous, and the electric-lit cityscape does its best to compete. Kiet lights Hai’s urban antics with giallo-like colors that work to create an unsettling atmosphere as she takes each new corner and faces each new threat. It doesn’t have the budget of something like Atomic Blonde (2017), but it occasionally touches on a similar aesthetic with colorful visuals and an angry, ass-kicking woman storming her way through.
The film does lean on flashbacks a bit too frequently to tell its story, but their repeated presence is only part of their problem. The content of the flashbacks is also more than a little redundant and unnecessary. We catch on early in the film to her less than savory past and the pure love she has for Mai, but both are frequent topics of flashbacks as if to remind viewers again and again that Hai used to be bad but now she’s good! We get it. And then we get it again. And again.
Other choices in the script, though, absolutely shine. Allowing Hai to be a badass from the very beginning is refreshing, and that attention to strong female characters isn’t limited to the lead. Her past life involved running her own shady business empire, and after leaving it behind another woman stepped in to take charge. The bad guys she’s after aren’t actually all guys with the baddest among them a woman prone to dishing out beatdowns without warning. The only male in a position of real power is the detective working the missing kids case, but even he needs Hai’s help. The film doesn’t make a big deal about these powerful women in positions of control, but it’s a touch worth noticing.
Furie‘s story won’t surprise you with originality, but it does deliver the goods in its action-heavy tale of a mother’s love for her daughter. You’d think by now movie villains would learn to target kids with apathetic parents, but nope. But hey, their loss (of life) is our gain (of thrilling entertainment).