by Daniel Gorman Film

Furie | Le-Van Kiet

July 16, 2019

There’s something to be said for good, old fashioned stories, told simply and told well. Furie isn’t breaking any molds; it covers well trod ground, the tale of a mother going after her missing child (outside of a tournament set up maybe, one of the most familiar plots of the action genre). It’s a testament, then, to both the skills of actress Veronica Ngo, as rampaging mother Hai Phuong, and director Le-Van Kiet that Furie is as satisfying as it is. It’s a modest 90 minutes, with a few flashbacks that set up Hai Phuong’s past: born into a martial arts family, falling in with the wrong crowd, getting pregnant and running off to the big city, being disowned by her parents. A few scenes show Hai Phuong’s current occupation as a debt collector for a small time gangster type. When her daughter is kidnapped by organ thieves, she springs into action, tracking them down and fighting anyone who gets in her way.

It’s straightforward stuff, with tight, clean fight choreography and crystal-clear editing. Kiet, fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh, and action director Yannick Ben all play to Ngo’s strengths, using her slight build to emphasize speed and agility over brute force. The action is largely conceived for a horizontal axis, mimicking the widescreen, ‘scope image; the camera glides to the left and right, following along with arms, legs, kicks, and throws to create an elegant, unified sense of space. Furie isn’t a perfect movie; despite its brief running time, parts still drag, and some of the fights seem to end just as quickly as they began. There’s a start-stop-start quality here, a failure to work up a sustained head of steam. The first half of the film plays almost like a realist drama that just happens to have a few fight scenes in it. Still, whatever its flaws, ultimately, the film delivers, and it will be interesting to see what this talent pool comes up with next.

Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2019.