Furies Movie Review: A Dynamic Action Film with Flawed Characters

Read our review of Furies, the prequel to the martial arts film Furie, directed by Veronica Ngo. While the action scenes are impressive, the characters fall short in their development. Overall, Furies is an enjoyable but flawed film.

Furies Film with Flawed Characters

The dynamic action film puts a lot of effort into the Vietnamese beat-em-up "Furies," a barely related prequel to the underwhelming 2019 martial arts film "Fury." "Furies" does not follow Furie's star, Veronica Ngo, or her character. Instead, Veronica Ngo steps behind the camera for "Furies," her first film as a director, and a story of sorts for Thanh Hoa, the villain of "Furies" who steals the show, Thanh Soi.

"Furies" (originally titled "Thanh Soi") does not focus on Thanh, but makes her the co-star of the film's real star, Bi (Dong Anh Quynh), an angry orphan who overcomes a childhood trauma by taking on a group of sadistic human traffickers with a trio of vigilantes, including Thanh (here played by Toc Tien), Hong (Rima Thanh Vy), and their leader, Jacqueline (Ngo Thanh Van).

Furies Movie Review: A Dynamic Action Film with Flawed Characters

"Furies" pales in comparison to the relatively confident "Fury" in all the scenes where the characters must relate to each other beyond propulsive violence. Action director Samuel Kefi Abrikh, who also choreographed the fight scenes in "Fury," still provides a number of standout moments, but the ensemble cast members are not as memorable when they are not tearing up the screen.

In a disturbing opening scene, young Bi (Thuy Linh) loses her mother, a prostitute, after a drunken customer attacks the two women and accidentally sets fire to their tiny boat. Fifteen years later, Bi is rescued and adopted by Jacqueline and her two students, 

Hong and Thanh. All four women have been raped or sexually assaulted, and it is to the directors' credit that a few scenes directly address this intense bond. In one of the most striking scenes, Bi returns from a particularly brutal altercation with an uncontrolled fight-or-flight response, triggered by memories of her mother. She can't stop herself from throwing punches, and at that point, even Thanh can't stop her without throwing some back.

The villains in "Furies" are not as memorable. Thuan Nguyen delivers a mundane performance as the reputedly demonic pimp Mad Dog Hai, and his fellow traffickers are only as threatening as the women they endanger. A last-minute twist adds an extra narrative element to the feud between Jacqueline and her daughters and Hai, but their mutual antagonism isn't much more complicated than it first appears. He is a violent bastard, and they are vengeful angels. They fight, and sometimes it's pretty cool to watch.

Furies | Netflix Official Trailer

Abrikh's choreography, while still solid, only sometimes has the same ingenious spark as in "Fury." Ngo's camerawork matches the frantic pace and wild movements of his performers, but some of the action scenes feel like spare parts, so close to the beatings in "Fury." That said, when the time is right for a truly messy and macabre adrenaline rush, Abrikh and Ngo deliver some indelible namby-pamby images. You know a fight is going to be good when it starts with a bloody syringe being ripped out of the neck of one of the muggers.

Abrikh and Ngo's fights are also fast-paced and have a visceral impact, even if the characters themselves are not as interesting as their fights. A motorcycle chase, which relies on visual effects, delivers on its promise thanks to a lighthearted orchestration. Dialogue-driven scenes lack the same liveliness, reflecting the film's relatively indecisive melodramatic thrust.

Ngo and his five screenwriters (not including script consultant Nguyen Ngoc Lam) seem most comfortable when their characters are at their lowest. There are a few scenes where Bi, Thanh and Hong try to comfort or show solidarity with each other after they've finished kicking ass. It is unfortunately telling that Hong, the most optimistic and feminine of the four main protagonists, is the least developed co-leader. 

She pampers Bi, does her hair and even throws a few good punches when it comes to fighting, but she's never as convincing as Thanh and Bi, a solid duo with a somewhat shaky third wheel. Even Bi's character is not developed as patiently as Ngo's in "Fury," so we never really understand what she means when, early on, she confesses that she likes killing rapists: "I liked it. And I was afraid of myself... I liked it... I could drown in my own darkness".

Fortunately, villainy is present throughout "Furies," and it is not limited to the film's antagonists. When Bi first argues with Thanh, she tries to take a bite out of his chest. And when they confront each other during the aforementioned flashback, they run into walls and destroy the bathroom. Even Hong saves Bi from a would-be rapist by stabbing her in the side. 

If this film were more comfortable with its pulpy substance, it would be a Paul Verhoeven film. The rest of "Furies" isn't as memorable, but there's enough good stuff here to warrant another loosely related spin-off.

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