In "Furie," Veronica Ngô stars as an ex-gangster in a desperate situation. "Furies" takes Ngô from in front of the camera and puts her in the director's chair of the action-heavy prequel headed to Netflix. An early 2000s vibe about seedy gangland colorfulness nods to an adrenaline junkie wave that birthed titles such as "Smokin' Aces" or "Shoot 'Em Up," which isn't a complaint. Ngô orchestrates a sleaze-filled yet feminine action brawler that flips the script on once prevalent subgenre gender norms, unfazed — better yet, empowered — by the task. The hyper-intensive style favorably reminds of "Sin City" minus black and white, or even as recently as "Bullet Train," how Saigon becomes drenched in neons like Nicolas Winding Refn's got a hold of lighting rigs.

Ngô also plays Jaqueline, the gracious leader of an underground assassin squad composed of girls who've endured unspeakable abuse under male-dominated societal norms. Bi (played convincingly by newcomer Dong Anh Quynh) is Jaqueline's reserved latest recruit — punk rocker type Thanh (Toc Tien) and bubblegum-peppy Hong (Rima Thanh Vy) are Bi's sisters in battle. Together, Jaqueline's hit squad rids the world of evil men who grossly sexualize, violently degrade, and inflict pain upon women. Their next target is "Mad Dog" Hai (Thuan Nguyen), leader of a criminal operation known as "The Big Four," which hides sex trafficking under nightlife gambling and drug dealing fronts. Bi, Thanh, and Hong's mission is fueled by rage, following a "Gunpowder Milkshake" or "The Princess" template against ruthless men punctuated by spicy commentary and seething catharsis.

Influences are heavy from "John Wick" gun-fu choreography to anime cartoonishness, the latter of which needs refinement. Ngô doesn't break a sweat when overseeing fast-paced fight sequences designed by action director Samuel Kefi Abrikh and co-action director Anh Tuan Nguyen that blast holes in heads with trigger-happy fluid beauty, not to override martial arts when foot-and-fist mastery starts kicking around combos. The central trio charge into battle with slickness like out of a manga, exhibiting an untamable cool factor and busting out combat techniques that feel aligned with comic book imaginations. Switchblades and karambits become brushes that paint scenes of vibrant bodily brutality, as Ngô's vision keeps pace with Indonesian ass-kickers like "The Night Comes for Us" or "The Raid" sans supremely graphic gore.

A Brutal But Bumpy Road

Although, there are scenes that aren't as exceptional compared to the practical accomplishments of stunt performers and architectural damage. "Furies" lives and dies by its ambition, never worse than a motorcycle chase that's glaringly green-screened and heavily animated. It's inorganic as video game cutscene digitization collides with actors who don't feel like they belong in the pixelated scene, mirroring the frantic danger of anime excitement yet lacking the artistic composition that blends reality with post-production prowess. Quynh and Tien's heroes do their best to sell death-defying escape skills, and a Vietnamese rock n' roll ballad attempts to set the mood. Still, it's an unfavorable comparison to Ngô's energetic and enigmatic control over way more of "Furies" — not to mention how it pads a running time that's detrimentally closer to the two-hour mark than a tight ninety minutes.

The undefeatable spirit of "Furies" sustains composure, along with Ngô's ability to blend womanly accents with badass expectations. Cinematographer Phu Nam steadies otherwise kinetic choreography without blurring movement and soaks in all the glitzy, rainbow-blasting aesthetics of party-hopping clubs ready for a blood-wash makeover. The softness with which Nam can frame a wild daisy blooming from concrete — the flower a symbol of survival growing in Jaqueline's makeshift dojo — then switch to bone-shattering action freneticism is a talent, one that Ngô exploits. "Furies" is better for its cutesy dress-up montages that lead into gratuitously punishing dispatches of henchmen waves, going the extra mile to have fun with personality-based costumes, placing a premium on entertainment that sometimes leaves a twistier story behind.

"Furies" is a double-barreled adrenaline shot of ladies-first action extravagance that shines a light on Vietnamese genre cinema. Veronica Ngô swats away male-dominated stereotypes and leaves audiences gasping for air after marathons of violence that dazzle and seduce. What causes "Furies" to stumble at times is unfortunate between lackluster computer animations and storytelling that's stretched almost translucent, but it's not enough to torpedo this fast-and-furious actioner. Girls rule the screen while boys drool a mixture of blood and tooth fragments, all in the name of righteous genre embellishment that executes brawler excitement with Ngô's power-punching touch.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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