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Furies - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Thanh Soi

Vietnam 2023

Action, Drama

Ngo Thanh Van

Dong Anh Quynh
Rima Thanh Vy
Toc Tien
Ngo Thanh Van
Thuan Nguyen
Song Luan
Thanh Nhien Phan

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Furies - Film Screenshot 1

Story: After her mother was killed and she herself was raped, Bi (Dong Anh Quynh) goes to Saigon, where she struggles through life doing various jobs. But she does not only make friends on the streets, and one day she has to be saved from some gangsters by Jacqueline (Ngo Thanh Van). Jacqueline takes her in, to a home where the always good-humored Hong (Rima Thanh Vy) and the somewhat grumpy Thanh (Toc Tien) already live. The girls are like a family and Bi is slowly becoming part of it too. However, Jacqueline also gives the girls combat training, as the world out there is merciless, and everyone is left to their own devices. But the leader has a plan. She wants to make the city a better place by eliminating gangster boss Hai (Thuan Nguyen). He continues to expand his influence, but the three girls' first blow against him is successful. Nevertheless, Hai suspects another gang behind the attack and becomes more and more ruthless. Now, Jacqueline has to be more cautious as well. Bi, however, thinks that there is more behind her boss's intentions. At the same time, she also has to deal with her traumatic past and the fact that she doesn't seem to mind killing people. In Saigon's cruel reality, it is not easy to preserve your humanity...

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Review: It doesn't happen that often that I review a movie from Vietnam, but in the case of Netflix's "Furie" it was worth it, because although the movie got off to a rather slow start, it eventually managed to score points with some good action, a decent directing job, and above all, real girl power (and not the forced-upon-you, rather unbelievable Hollywood version). Of course, you have to go one step further with a sequel, and so we have three (or actually four) women fighting against an evil gang. With that the movie initially seems to walk right into the woke trap overcorrecting things. Because at first, all the men in the story seem evil, but then at least one character shows some nuances, and the women are not just victims either, but perpetrators too. This is particularly interesting because the movie is actually a prequel and tells the backstory of the villain Thanh Soi (which is also the original title) from the first part.

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Naturally, it is supposed to be a surprise, which one of the girls is actually Thanh Soi, but all the women in the movie were victims, have been raped, sold to brothels or subjected to physical violence. The world portrayed is extremely gloomy and is shaped by the law of the jungle. So, it's no wonder that Jacqueline thinks that the only way to stop being pushed around by men is to become stronger. Of course, this means that we get a montage of some training scenes in which the women practice martial arts, but the idea behind it can certainly be seen as a refreshing form of emancipation. The movie's heroines do not stay in the role of the victim, but instead get active and fight their way to the top. Whether you like it or not, this has always been the only way to climb the social ladder if money and power does not simply fall into your lap. Of course, there is a small catch in "Furies", just like Nietzsche wrote: "And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

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The women around Jacqueline grow into a family and their pain is what unites them. But on their way to emancipation, they also turn into murderers. Bi starts thinking about that, but the rest doesn't seem to be that much bothered about it. This could make it a little difficult to root for the women. However, since the world around them is so profoundly evil, this is not the case. The gang is made up of psychopaths for whom a life is worth nothing more than the next meal. Choosing this as a way out of a serious moral dilemma may seem a bit simplistic, but it fits well into the rest of the movie, as the atmosphere of the flick is strongly reminiscent of gritty 80s and 90s Hong Kong cinema. Especially Saigon and its neon colors, standing in contrast to the dirty but somewhat also nihilistically charming buildings, manage to please the audience. The chosen pop music also adds to the flair.

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Leading actress Ngo Thanh Van from the first part, who plays Jacqueline here, has also taken over the directing job and shows a sure hand at that. Not only does it really feel like you're in 90s Saigon, but the action scenes are also skillfully captured. There are fast camera movements, but you are always able to keep track of things. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed by the fights, though. There are a few nice moments, and the movie can be surprisingly brutal too, even though it doesn't overdo it, but sometimes the punches lack impact. In that respect, Ngo Thanh Van was more convincing in "Furie". Thankfully, she is also allowed to compete in the finale, which includes a little gun-fu and turns out to be quite exciting. Nevertheless, "Furies" doesn't want to be a real martial arts flick. Instead, it's more of an action movie with a strong focus on the protagonists' pain. In this respect, the flick is actually quite successful.

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The drama is not exaggerated and the emotions are conveyed believably. Even though we don't really learn much about them, the heroines each have a different character, and you can tell that they are connected by a sisterly bond, at the latest when they occasionally fool around in a very girlish way, which stands in stark contrast to their assignments. Still, the trauma that shaped each one of them in a different yet somewhat similar way, repeatedly comes to the surface. Sure, the story could have wrapped things up a bit more smoothly and with a little more depth, but the drama is basically the flick's foundation and also its strength. Next to some plot holes in the script there is a long motorcycle chase shot in front of a green screen that stands out negatively, although the latter almost creates a very unique charm due to its unconvincing special effects. As mentioned before, I would have liked to see a few spectacular action scenes to make the movie work as an action flick, especially because there are so few of them with women these days. But all in all, if you lower your expectations a bit in this regard, you can't go wrong with "Furies".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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