Recently I had the pleasure of watching Lê Văn Kiệt’s Furie (2019). For reference, Furie is a Vietnamese martial arts film about Hai Phượng (Veronica Ngô Thanh Vân) who works as a debt collector in the countryside and fights to get back her kidnapped child in a deal gone wrong. This film also happens to be one of the most expensive and highest-grossing Vietnamese films to date, so there’s definitely a lot to take away from this film that differentiates itself in Vietnamese cinema.
What was also interesting was how it shed light on the dark realities of human trafficking and organ harvesting in Vietnam, as it is still an ongoing problem rampant in the country to this day. When I was growing up, my mom would always traumatize me with stories of children getting kidnapped and having their kidneys stolen in Vietnam, and I’d tried to or disregard it. However, watching this film gave me one hell of a wake-up call to all those times I’ve been warned.
Disclaimer, though, this film doesn’t completely lack flaws. The pathos and its attempt to grab your sympathy for Hai Phượng falter at various points in the film. However, what it lacks in evoking emotions and sympathy, it makes up for with its stunning usage of saturated lighting and martial arts choreography. The many clever shots and aesthetic usages of lighting blew me away. How Hai Phượng can take that many brutal hits to the body and still miraculously get up and get away victorious boggled my mind. The film also takes risks with the viciousness of a hammer as a weapon, an anxiety-inducing yet swiftly done shot.
Hai Phượng’s rivalry with the seemingly impossible-to-beat Thanh Sói beautifully amplified the ferocity and mercilessness of the women in this film, with Hai Phượng driven by the love for her child, and Thanh Sói driven by cold exploitation for money.
Did I mention how much purple is emphasized and essential to this film? From Hai Phượng’s arrival in Saigon,
to the subtle contrast of the cigarette as Hai Phượng seeks out a former friend in the city.
She even dons a purple shirt wherever she goes, making each climactic point in the film important: a call of destruction to those who wronged her. The subtle contrast between the dim golden lighting and the hue of her face and shirt in this scene represents a defiance of peace with ruthless destruction for the sake of love.
It should also be noted that purple can be alluded back to its traditional symbolism for royalty and regality, adding majestic flair to the sheer determination of Hai Phượng’s character.
This film could easily be disregarded as just another female Taken, or John Wick. Frankly, I could see why and would agree as such. However, the nuances in its character dynamics and saturated cinematography in combination with it hitting home on the subject of motherly love make this a unique and memorable film with much to appreciate.