Vietnam is known for many things – picturesque natural views, the country where a nasty war happened decades ago, a well-featured place due to their delicious cuisine, and an Asian country with seemingly meek and mild-mannered people.
But when it comes to the entertainment industry, the world only got a glimpse of Vietnam’s offerings in small doses, especially due to a handful of films that captured the imagination of foreign film festival audiences and jurors the past decades.
Directed by Vietnamese filmmaker Lê Văn Kiệt, Furie tells the story of Hai Phuong, a svelte no-nonsense woman who works as a small-town debt collector for a marketplace seller. Since the people in debt are mostly poor and don’t have enough to go by, they end up prolonging their debts.
This is bad for them because, as a debt collector, Hai Phuong uses all her energies to do her job – even her martial arts skills. So she ends up beating some of these poor folks in debt, earning a bad reputation in town as an evil debt collector.
Outside of the town’s scrutiny, though, Hai Phuong hides many stories inside of her house. As it turns out, she was raised and trained by her martial arts expert of a father. Flashbacks of her training as a little girl show us glimpses of how she was toughened out in her formative years, making us understand how she became the tough street fighter she is now.
But is she that heartless of a thug? Not really, because she’s also a single mom, taking care of a preteen girl named Mai. They’re the only ones together in life, it seems.
But Hai Phuong’s job negatively affects Mai. The girl gets bullied by classmates and adults eye Hai Phuong as an unfit mother for Mai. All of these personal tensions soon become part of a bigger conflict when, one day, Mai gets abducted in the marketplace.
And this is where all the action starts for this film, which leads us to nonstop action hook after-action hook. Don’t let the tranquility of the countryside and rural life fool you. Within the provincial-looking environs where Hai Phuong and Mai reside, evil people also abound. These evil people turn out to be a syndicate that kidnaps children and slices them up to harvest internal organs. The organs are put up for sale.
The action starts as soon as Hai Phuong goes on a relentless pursuit to retrieve her daughter. You can see that she’ll ride anything and fight anyone just to reach her daughter.
The journey takes her to Saigon, or as the world knows, Ho Chi Minh City, where Hai Phuong once worked in a bar/club as a sexy thug, where she was also impregnated. She even asked her former club connections for leads about the abductions when she finds out certain details from the police.
When she sought out the help of the police in Saigon, that’s where she found out that they’re already investigating this syndicate, and it’s a national operation. It could also be an international one, only they’re having a hard time cracking the case.
So instead of cooperating with law enforcement people, Hai Phuong doesn’t waste any time and tries to find key people involved in the syndicate. She’s successful in her own sleuthing, but of course, she encounters many fights along the way.
Of course, action narratives with this kind of dramatic plots only lead to one conclusion: that the mother gets her child back, successfully, but not without getting bruises and scars along the way. She even gets shot! But all’s well that ends well in this small but slick action-packed Asian film. And her character gets the redemption she needs.
If you’re wondering where you’ve seen Hai Phuong before, that’s the actress-singer Veronica Ngo, or Ngô Thanh Vân in her native Vietnam, a popular celebrity there.
She underwent a lot of martial arts action fight training for this one. But it’s not her first time to portray an action-packed character. Only in Furie, she’s almost always in the scene, and it’s safe to say that 98% of the film is hers.
You can also see in the way the action scenes are choreographed that Ngo’s training in dance is evident, as seen in the way she stands, poises and poses. Even if the action scenes were staged to be like impromptu street fights, the choreography is still evident, but it’s not that obvious.
This is thanks to the wonderful pacing of the editor, the cinematographer’s deft angles, and of course the director’s call as to how to block the scenes.
It’s also successful because Ngo acts in a very intense and earnest way, one that makes you believe she’s truly feeling what her character is feeling at that moment: a great mix of anguish, determination, pain, fatigue, and endurance. Only a seasoned actress can pull that off in an action film, and we’re glad to see that Ngo can pull that off so well.
When it comes to big scenes or small scenes, Ngo truly shines whenever she’s in front of the camera. This was obvious in her brief, brief role in the big Hollywood film called Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, the 2017 hit where she played Paige Tico, the sister of Rose Tico, the rebel alliance workers involved in flying out ships.
If you can’t remember her, Ngo played that Paige girl, the one who sacrificed herself and caught a remote control that released a slew of bombs which landed directly onto the enemy spaceship, causing her death. Even during that brief existence, Ngo left an indelible mark on Star Wars fans worldwide.
That’s why it’s also sure that Furie will further leave a bigger mark on international audiences when they see Ngo in action here. Go ahead, catch it now on Netflix!