Americans notoriously avoid foreign films. The sad reality is that even those deemed the best of all imported cinema (subjectively determined by year-end lists and awards), are often ignored by a large majority of audiences in this country. The rare exception of a financially successful foreign film is often completely distanced from the idea of what wins awards, and tends to exist within a familiar genre convention. In the past, horror fans have flocked to the notoriously gruesome offerings of different cultures, but I have noticed the genre most influenced by foreign markets in recent years has been the action/martial arts movie. Ironically, while Furie’s major selling point is the casting of a Vietnamese actress already successful in
Hollywood (Veronica Ngo from Star Wars: The Last Jedi), it is a film
that will likely be an introduction to Vietnamese action for most in . And for many
it will be the first Vietnamese film they have seen; in fact, it was the first
ever to be released theatrically in the Hollywood , in any genre. United States
Although the terrain and many of the character types in the film feel distinctly Vietnamese, the plot of Furie is universally relatable, as well as being a staple in the Hollywood action genre for years. Ngo stars as Hai Phuong, a former gangster who has put the life behind after having a daughter out of wedlock. Forced to take a job as a debt collector and shunned by the rural community they live in, Hai Phuong lives in near poverty trying to give her daughter a respectable life. Not only does this hard work go unappreciated by her daughter, Mai (Cat Vy), but her past as a gangster still haunts her and threatens to intrude upon their new life.
When Mai is kidnapped from a market, Hai Phuong unleashes the skills taught by her father and utilized as a gangster and debt collector to chase down her daughter and take down anyone that gets in the way. It is a decent blend of Taken and Kidnap (even including a variation on the same line Halle Berry delivered about the kidnappers taking ‘the wrong child’), but with an emphasis on the martial arts spectacle often associated with Asian action cinema. Ultimately, there isn’t much more to the plot than this basic set-up, but that’s all it needs to move the story along from one set piece/action scene to the next.
If the story in Furie resembles many
action-thrillers in recent years, the style of this film is actually far closer
to Gareth Evans’ The Raid series.
These films nearly single-handedly put Indonesian cinema on the international
radar, which Furie certainly seems to
be attempting for .
Along with a similar style of breakneck martial arts action unafraid to add in
moments of visceral brutality, Furie’s
camerawork also seems inspired by Evans’ series, which utilize movement to
sell/enhance moments of fight choreography. It is telling that the latest John Wick film also employs this
technique, as well as casting one of the main villains from both Raid films. The various elements in the
melting pot of international action are becoming harder to separate. Vietnam
Furie feels like a movie made through the help of multi-national influence due to the style of the martial arts and photography (imitating a film which made by a Welsh director in Indonesia, with the help of Chinese stunt coordinators), and this melting pot of filmmaking is blended more with the knowledge that director Le-Van Kiet graduated from UCLA School of Film & TV. This explains the film’s polished look, and along with the familiar narrative should make the transition into enjoying Vietnamese action a seamless one for American audiences.
The Blu-ray release of Furie comes with a DVD copy of the film, though no digital copy. The extra disc is always welcome, especially with the limited extras on the disc itself. Other than the English-language dubbing available (though not recommended or purists) and a trailer, the only special feature available is a quartette of brief promotional behind-the-scenes featurettes, each averaging about three-minutes long.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 8/10
Special Features: 4/10