The exciting allure of multi-faceted woman of business and talent, actress Veronica Ngo, is yet to be ever fully realized in the western world, a fact made clear with bit roles in The Last Jedi and hit fantasy crime pic, Bright – both big, major films that pass the muster, but definitely younger in comparison to the fandom Ngo has drawn up for herself since emerging as the venerable showstopper alongside Johnny Tri Nguyen in films like The Rebel and Clash.
She earned a stake in Dustin Tri Nguyen’s feasibly entertaining sword fantasy, Once Upon A Time In Vietnam, and in Yuen Woo-Ping’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword Of Destiny. Soon, and much to our delight, the actress will be seen in Well Go USA’s own release of her latest Studio68 production, Furie, a film less so in the vein of The Raid and definitively more Taken to that affect; That the high bar is set to “Raid-style” in the hype is almost always expected but even so, that the film is its own thing is very much a good thing.
Per its Vietnam push as Hai Phoung, Furie casts Ngo in the title role for a story centered on a woman clearly dealing with living entities of her gangster past. She’s still a gangster – sort of – working as a debt collector and unafraid to get her hands dirty or bloodied since her brutish and violent methods get results. At the same time, her job has earned her a lesser-favorable reputation among the locals, and not exactly being a sqeaky clean mom hasn’t especially made things easier for her daughter, Mai (Cat Vi) in front of her peers.
As it stands, it’s already having a visibly negative affect on their relationship. A heat-of-the-moment accusation against Mai in front of Hai Phoung drawn up by the marketplace lynch mob over a lost wallet forces Mai to escape to a place of solitude. Minutes pass and sudden child-like cries for help catch Hai Phoung’s attention with Mai’s kidnapping in plain view. Met with a gauntlet of armed henchmen, she’s forced to fight her way in an extensive chase scene, and though she manages to get close, it’s not enough and Mai is swept away in a hail of oncoming traffic.
Desperate to act quick, she stowaways on a truck expected to follow the vehicle Mai is in until the reach Saigon. Turning up at her old nightclub throes where she used to be a boss, Hai Phoung learns of the notorious criminal gang activities and the leaders now in charge, but falls short of help from old friends. Sights of bulletin boards at the nearest police station loaded with missing children reports, suspects and the horrible crimes that follow are an ominous sign that each second is precious, and that she must act fast.
Director Le Van Kiet in his seventh film to date helms this newest entry for action fans. Penning a script with Nguyen Troung Nhan, he brings a stimulating and worthy package in Furie that provides a steady balance of action and drama, and which also manages to add in just a touch of inobvuous comedic flair in the second half. The element of heart lies strongly with Hai Phoung reflecting on her own childhood, the lessons of her father and the hardship that affects her family to this day. This gets handsomely coupled with the mother/daughter chemistry we see in Ngo’s and Vi’s performances, and a core message that delves healthily into conquering fear.
Actor Phan Thanh Nhien provides ample support with the role of Luong, a noble and smart detective bent on maintaining a steady investigation, but knowlegable at times to let Hai Phoung do her own thing when it can’t be helped. To the film’s credit, however, it’s co-star Phan Anh Khoa who takes the reigns as Truc one of Hai Phoung’s more brutal hurdles. A scene with Truc and Luong introduces the obligatory monologue that readily amplifies Ngo’s character in the course of her non-stop mission: Think Christopher Walken’s scene with Giancarlo Giannini in Man On Fire, or the late Michael Nyqvist’s chilling warning to Alfie Allen in John Wick. The added flair of a determined woman front and center of this violent, martial arts-infused play on the kidnap/rescue genre of action lends fervently to the magic.
The core action scenes by Yannick Ben Haddou and Anh Tuan Nguyen Team X with fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh on hand are consistent through and through in showcasing Ngo’s continued proficiency in screenfighting. That she was able to meet the demand and perform as many of her own stunts as safely as possible next to having a stunt double readily handy – certifies that when it comes to cinematic action, Veronica Ngo is the whole package. We see plenty of it, including in her scenes opposite actress Thanh Hoa who plays the ferocious Nu Quai, a menacing, hulking villainess with an air of calm, sinister gravitas about her character. Their rivalry as gangsters from two different eras greatly cosigns their two climatic duels, the second which occurs abord a frieght train.
The production design once the film takes off is doused in the neons familiarly presneted on the film’s numerous posters and in stills. The color defintiely does wonder in selling the urban, tonal energy and vibe of the criminal underworld our redemptive heroine sets back into in order to save her child. The film’s ending marks with a steadfast glare partly into the camera – a daring sign-off for Ngo in one of her best, mightiest and uplifting action movie roles by far.
Several parts Taken, other parts Transporter, Furie couldn’t have come at a better time as one of the latest films putting Southeast Asia on the world map for global action cinema. The action and drama in Furie are both palpable and thrilling, and above all else, Veronica Ngo proves she can pass muster as one of today’s finest action stars by far.
Well Go USA will release Furie in theaters and on VOD beginning March 1.