Thursday, March 14, 2019


I'm mildly curious about why Furie opened at South Bay rather than Boston Common - is it just a case of that being where there was room, is there a fair-sized Vietnamese community in Dorchester, or is there some other factor I'm not particularly aware of? Sees to be working - it's getting another week of shows - so go figure. It's not actually that much harder to get to than other theaters in the Boston area via the T, but it's set up in kind of annoying fashion, with everything about it seeming kind of counter-intuitive to me.

Still, small price to pay to see Veronica Ngo kicking some butt on the big screen; I don't think any of the things I saw her in at Fantasia years ago every got any theatrical release here, and don't seem to be available on video now, which is a shame - The Rebel is pretty terrific, and has a lot more of the vovinam signature move (leap in the air, legs around opponent in scissor formation, bring him down by twisting your body) that dropped my jaw the first time I saw it.

Looking for stuff to put on as a merch link (not that anyone ever clicks them, but it breaks the wall of text up), I see Ngo has directed a film in addition to acting now, and it looks pretty interesting. Maybe when I've got a bit of time...

Hai Phuong (Furie)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 March 2019 in AMC South Bay #5 (first-run, DCP)

Furie has Veronica Ngo Thanh Van and not a whole lot else, and while you can often say that this sort of movie doesn't need a whole lot more than one charismatic star and enough folks to sell the other half of a fight scene to get through 90 minutes, it certainly doesn't hurt. This one has some undeniably impressive martial-arts action and precisely as much story is necessary to justify it, and while one might maybe like a bit more, the film certainly delivers what it promises.

Ngo plays Hai Phuong (which is also the film's name in the original Vietnamese), a single mother working as a debt collector in an out-of-the-way town, and the locals don't exactly hide their disdain for either of those traits, figuring she must have left the city as the result of some scandal. Daughter Mai (Cat Vy) gets bullied for it at school, and it makes for some tension in the small family. Nevertheless, when Mai is snatched off the street, Hai Phuong fights back tenaciously, following the kidnappers back to Saigon and learning that there's an internationally-connected criminal syndicate fronted by Thanh Soi (Hoa Tran) that has been selling kids' organs on the black market for years, and has likely amassed just enough for another shipment to go out tonight.

The story is basic as heck, but the screenplay is kind of clumsy, which isn't the greatest combination but also isn't bad like "convoluted and clumsy" is. There are no red herrings in it at all, not even feints toward some sort of backstory with Mai's unnamed father; indeed, Hai Phuong's past is brought up just enough to explain why she's so skilled at vovinam and can make at least a start of tracking lowlives down once she makes it to Saigon, and any suggestion that there might be any sort of corruption involved in this ring is given a wide berth. There's something downright admirable about not screwing around and just having Hai Phuong run a gauntlet, but the way things play out doesn't get the most out of it; there's downtime and diversions when the film has already made it clear that she's on a deadline. The film could certainly do with being a bit leaner and more relentless.

Full review at EFilmCritic

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