FURIES (Thanh soi: Cuc dai trong dem)
(director/writer: Veronica Ngo (Ngo Thanh Van); screenwriters: Aaron Toronto, Nguyen Truong Nhan, Nguyen Ngoc Thach, Ly Nguyen Nha Uyen, Nhuyen Ngoc Thach; cinematographer: Phu Nam; editors: Nguyen Cong Danh, Nguyen Cong Dang; music: Nguyen Hoang Anh; cast: Dong Anh Quynh (Bi), Thuy Linh (Young Bi), Veronica Ngo (Jacqueline/Aunt Lin), Toc Tien (Thanh Soi), Rima Thanh Vy (Hong), Thuan Nguyen (Hai Cho Dien), Song Luan (Long Bo Da), Gi A Nguyen (Son Lai), Phan Thanh Hien (Teo Mat Seo); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Giang Ho, Bey Logan, Veronica Ngo (Ngo Thanh Van); Netflix; 2022-Vietnam-in Vietnamese with English subtitles)
“Volatile feminine action pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Vietnamese director/writer/star Ngo Thanh Van is known professionally in the West as Veronica Ngo (“The Lost Dragon”/”Tam Cam: The Untold Story”). She gets nasty with this volatile feminine action pic that’s all about blood and vengeance, and is set in the late ’90s. It’s the first Vietnamese Netflix original feature.
Veronica Ngo made her mark in the West in films like The Last Jedi, The Old Guard, and The Princess. If nothing else, she has the fighting skills to be a bad-ass in action pics. In 2019 she starred as a criminal mom trying by force to get back her kidnapped daughter, in Le-Van Kiet’s martial arts film Furie.
In this film, a loosely drawn prequel to that film, where she moves onto directing it in addition to being its star, producer and co-writer with Aaron Toronto, Nguyen Truong Nhan, Nguyen Ngoc Thach, Ly Nguyen Nha Uyen, Nhuyen Ngoc Thach). It’s not necessary to see the 2019 film, as this film tells you all you need to know as a stand alone film.
It opens with the attempted rape of a young girl named Bi (Thuy Linh) by a drunk john of her prostitute mother, which happens before we even get to the credits. Her mother tries to keep him off her, but Bi is tragically left orphaned after her houseboat is accidentally set on fire by the rapist. At least Bi stabbed her attacker to death.
Fifteen years later, after growing up homeless on her own and surviving as a pick-pocket, the angry Bi (Dong Anh Quynh), providing an occasional voiceover, leaves her rural birthplace for Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) and is still pained by the loss of her mom. But she feels better ripping into a gang of sadistic human traffickers with her trio of fellow sexually abused vigilantes: the teens Thanh (Toc Tien) and Hong (Rima Thanh Vy), and Jacqueline (Veronica Ngo), and their den mother like leader, also known as Aunt Lin, who took Bi in to her hideout place and trains her with the two other girls in the martial arts to be avenging angels.
Jacqueline is obsessed with killing the sadistic male pigs who are human traffickers, especially the sleazy sex maniac leader Hai Cho Dien (Thuan Nguyen), a greedy sociopath who operates a drug empire in addition to his sex trafficking ring. By killing off his four henchmen, either one at a time or by groups, they destroy the gang’s operation, as Jacqueline seeks revenge with her avenging angels for what he did to countless innocent women and girls. She serves the gang her brand of street justice because there’s no one else around to protect women.
It’s a kick-ass pic that’s ultra-violent and lurid, with no room for subtlety.
One should see this film only for the fights, which are well-choreographed. But be aware that the revenge beatdowns could only take the film so far when the characters are so vapid and the story so disheartening.
The vigilantes tell us how good they feel when they take down a rapist, which is probably a reason they needed five writers for such a demanding script.
But if you’re the type of viewer who feels good seeing these toxic male slime-balls get their just desserts, I hope you enjoy a film that’s made just for you.
It played at the SXSW Festival (Midnight).
REVIEWED ON 11/27/2023 GRADE: C+