“Furie” is a female Vietnamese “Taken” predicated on the simple premise that you “Never take on a tigress who is defending her cub.”
It’s a showcase for Vietnamese actress, model and pretty-convincing martial artist Veronica Ngo (Ngo Van Tranh), who takes takes beating after beating, and delivers beating after beating, as she brawls her way through the child-trafficking trade of Indochina.
Hai Phuong (Ngo) is a debt collector in Tra Vinh, feared by some, hated by most. She isn’t shy about busting deadbeats in the mouth, and often finds herself chased off by machete-wielding debtors who underestimate her lithe frame and capacity for violence. Some even dare to come to her house and make threats.
Her little girl (Mai Cát Vi) is bullied for being a fatherless child, and for how Mommy provides for them. She can’t be more than 10, but already she’s got a business plan — fish farming — that she hopes can fix all this.
That goes by the boards the day Mai is kidnapped, right in front of her mother at the market. Hai Phuong takes a beating, but so do a LOT of henchmen. The market is busted up, and as the bad guys spirit the child away in a boat, Hai Phuong steals a moped and the cross-country chase is on.
Naturally, the trail leads to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. A desperate visit to the police station misses connecting her with the detective (Thanh Nhien Phan) on the kidnapping beat. But Hai Phuong steals a rap sheet leading into this underworld where children and others are grabbed for all manner of criminal activities, including organ harvesting.
The machete fights of the rural districts turn into a screwdriver/hammer brawl, a hatchet fight, fire-extinguisher-as-weapon on a train, and of course, a cat fight.
Tranh Hoa has a Michelle Rodriguez in “Girlfight” and “Fast and Furious” look and vibe, the two-fisted Dragon Lady/mastermind of this enterprise, or at least the top dog Hai Phuong right in front of her. Their throwdown is epic.
Guns? They’re saved for the finale.
The story is as plain as they get, with a ticking clock driving Tigress Mom’s dogged pursuit and Ngo’s ability to handle intricate fight choreography with anybody. Slo-mo and sound effects do a decent job of covering up the blows-that-aren’t-blows, the simple throw-weight that make the fights laughable from a “How’d she recover from THAT?” perspective.
Ngo, Tranh Hoa and Thanh Nhien Phan have mastered the badass glower and cooly cruel sneer action heroes wear when the brawls are about to start, or their characters are getting their second wind in mid-fight.
But it is Ngo who must carry picture across its (anti-climactic) finish, keep us involved when it lapses into third act lulls. And she does. It’s no wonder Hollywood has finally discovered her (at 40) and is casting her in action films by Spike Lee and Gina Prince-Bythewood. Even without a “cub” to protect, she’s a tigress.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, some of it involving children and child abduction
Cast: Veronica Ngo, Mai Cát Vi, Thanh Nhien Phan, Tranh Hoa
Credits: Written and directec by Le-Van Kiet. A Well Go/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:37