Veronica Ngô is amazing. I wasn’t sure how to start this review without stating that fact at the beginning. An action star, my first introduction to Ngô was in Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, and then as the lead in director Le-Van Kiet‘s Furie. The latter of these showcased Ngô’s physical prowess, yes, but also her dynamic range in front of the camera emotionally. Now, with Furies, a prequel to Kiet’s film, I get to Ngô’s deft hand behind the camera—although this is not her directorial debut.
Furies is centered on Bi, a Vietnamese country girl who survives a brutal childhood and escapes to the city of Saigon. But making it to Saigon doesn’t save her from years on the street and the violence that comes with that. While Bi can take care of herself without training, thanks to her tenacity alone, one situation leaves her particularly vulnerable and beholden to Lin. After following the mysterious woman who saved her from a group of men, Bi begins to make a new family with Thanh and Hong, all while Lin trains each of them to take down a Saigon crime lord, Hai, who traffics drugs and young women.
Furies is a rough watch, filled with sexual violence. Each of our leads has been raped at some point in their life, and their trauma serves as the catalyst for trusting Aunt Lin in her crusade to bring down Hai and his organization responsible for thousands of women being trafficked. But instead of focusing only on their trauma or exploiting it, Ngô manages to center the women and their vengeance and make sure that audience understands that they are more than what happened to them. Because of this, each one of the women has dynamic personalities that showcase the differences in feminity and coping with their pasts.
Thanh is unyielding, decked out in band t-shirts, and lost in her music; she doesn’t trust easily. On the other hand, Hong is as feminine as you could think, showing off her body in clothes she loves. Doing her make-up always to look her best, Hong is the most traditionally feminine of the group, the one who shows her joy outwardly, and the heart of the trio. Finally, our lead Bi is silent and struggling to accept her past. She’s closed off and trying her best to find a family when hers was killed. Altogether, they bring out the best in each other, and as a team, their varied skill sets make them dangerous. Veronica Ngô is an amazing actress, but her deft hand in navigating weighty issues and using action to tell a story of navigating trauma is phenomenal.
Unfortunately, Furies stumbles in its very last moment when it awkwardly tries to connect to Furie. In fact, this film could have easily been made outside of Kiet’s 2019 film and may have been better for it. Add some minor plot holes in the finale’s unraveling, and those small pieces keep the film from being perfect. That said, it is damn good.
Furies has a message and a cast of stellar female characters. Above all else, it shows how well women can pull off brutal fight choreography when given the material to execute. While brutality gives this film an edge, Ngô ability to work in camp and humor simultaneously makes the film dynamic. A bloody blending of Charlie’s Angels and The Raid, Furies doesn’t pull its punches. It’s brutal when it comes to the portrayal of violence, and the action sequences deliver the bone-crunching sound design that makes action films so satisfying to hear in theater surround sound.
A bloody blending of Charlie’s Angels and The Raid, Furies doesn’t pull its punches. It’s brutal when it comes to the portrayal of violence, and the action sequences deliver the bone-crunching sound design that makes action films so satisfying to hear in theater surround sound.