“Furies” is a lurid, ultraviolent Vietnamese thriller about a quartet of women assembled to take down a Saigon crime lord by hitting him where it hurts — killing off his henchmen in ones, twos, or big bunches.
Yes, characters refer to what is still officially known as Ho Chi Minh City as Saigon. And no, it probably never occurred to them that an alternate title might occur to anyone watching these female avengers in the U.S.
“Charlie’s Angels,” anyone? I kid.
But there’s no messing around in actress (“The Old Guard,” “Furie,” “Da Five Bloods”), co-writer and director Veronica Ngo‘s blistering underworld bloodbath.
It’s the sort of film that opens with a child’s rape, and serves up enough such scenes that one is inclined to mutter, “How many damned rapes are in this thing?”
Little Bi, who stabs her attacker to death, survives that moment on her sex-worker/mother’s houseboat, but Mom does not. Bi (Dong Anh Quynh) grows up homeless and never far from her next victimization, until she is rescued by Jacqueline, “Aunt Lin” (Ngo), a tough-minded matriarch with an idea for “ending” the rampant sex trafficking and sexual assaults that come with it.
“We have no one to protect us,” Lin intones (in subtitled Vietnamese or dubbed into English). “We’ve all lived and lost. We were like wild daisies, trying to grow out of the darkness.
Bi will join Jacqueline’s petite tyros Hong (Rima Thanh Vy) and Than (Toc Tien), “Wolf Sisters” their foes call them. She will train with them. And they will, together, go after the drug smuggler, human trafficker and crime boss Hai (Thuan Ngyen), a venal predator with many minions and one kryptonite — women.
This formula thriller, not really a sequel to Ngo’s breakout action pic in the West, “Furie,” is packed with punch-above-their-throw-weight brawls and knife-fights, climaxing in a big shootout.
Asian actioners in general and Southeast Asian films of this genre in particular often feature that moment when a huge gang assembles to attack the hero or heroines, and either visit their stash of machetes or grab one each as they steal from the cutlery stall at a street market.
It’s a blunt statement of what’s obviously on the way — machete mayhem.
The plot? Well, it’s predictable, right down to its twists and turns. People on both sides will die. A lot of blood will be spilled. The only cops we meet are in the coda. Twas ever thus in underworld sagas filled with “Furies.”
But one trope that “Furies” tops is a stylized, effects-packed motorbike chase through the narrow alleys and streets of the old city late at night, a furious fight-and-flight without firearms that will pin your ears back. Seriously cool.
And even if “cool” is prioritized over logic or novelty in this bloody battle to the death, it’s still enough to recommend Ngo’s bracing, kinetic and beautifully shot and edited tale of life and death, rape and revenge in Old/New Saigon.
Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence, sexual violence, drug abuse, smoking, profanity
Cast: Veronica Ngo, Rima Thanh Vy, Toc Tien, Dong Anh Quynh and Thuan Nguyen
Credits: Directed by Veronica Ngo, scripted by Nha Uyen Ly Nguyen, Nguyen Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Truong Nhan, Aaron Toronto and Veronica Ngo. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:47