The thing about films from SE Asia is that in the West the only ones we likely
get a chance to see are action films. No dramas or comedies ever go cross-border
but local filmmakers know that an action film has potential legs. So Thailand,
Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia have gotten into the act and are cranking
out action films on a budget that is a blip in a Hollywood film. But they
are willing to go the extra mile with some very good martial artists. And
we action junkies are grateful for that. Thailand had its time a decade back
or so, Indonesia has the Raid films and others that I need to get my hands
on, Malaysia has its share but I don't know of any so far that have been
distributed in the West and Vietnam has gotten into the act over the past
few years with some solid martial arts film. This one was picked up by Netflix
and was actually released in the USA in theaters. It should have done better.
This is good fun with loads of action - almost all of it gun-less.
It may have been inspired by the Taken films - at least the first one - but
instead of a hardened ex-agent going after his daughter; a lone mother goes
after her daughter. But just as relentlessly and as ferociously, As one character
says after she batters him, "Never take a cub away from a female tiger".
She will find you, she will kill you. I loved the cinematography and settings
here - first a small rural river town with houseboats and small craft tolling
the river and then the insanity of Saigon where the motorcycles and hectic
crowds will beat you down. Some of the camera work going along the river
in a chase, down neon lit terrifying alleyways and into hellish hovels is
really well done. It feels very real because it probably is. I doubt if they
had the budget to create sets. The actress has one outfit in the entire film
- though that makes perfect sense.
The actress behind the beatings is Veronica Ngo - a big star in Vietnam in
both music and film - and she is a tough lady. Here and in Once Upon a Time
in Vietnam which I saw a few moths ago. Her background is not in martial
arts so I expect she is mainly faking it but if she is, she is faking it
really well. Her fights here are brutal and furious and she takes her share
of body blows and head slams - but she wants her kid back and in film fashion
no blow is enough to stop her. The actress was in fact a boat person, who
ended up in Norway when she was ten and then returned when she was twenty
to model and began her music career. So some of her toughness is not just
on the screen. She has had parts in some Hollywood films - though apparently
not all that large - Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Bright and a couple upcoming
films - Da 5 Bloods and The Old Guard.
Her character Hai Phuong was once a bar girl who ran an rough area in Saigon
- much to the shame of her family - but she left the life ten years ago and
settled in a small out of the way town to raise her cutie pie daughter. She
collects debts, which don't always come easily but keeps her skills sharp.
When her five year old daughter is kidnapped by a gang that either take body
parts or perhaps worse - she goes into action which is close to non-stop
other than to take a few breaths. Her fight against the female boss is like
hitting your head repeatedly against the wall. I am a sucker for these kinds
of films - and found this quite satisfying. So hopefully there will be a
Furie 2 in which her daughter gets kidnapped again!