This week we viewed Furie (2019), a Vietnamese action film that follows a woman on her fight to find her daughter after she was kidnapped by human traffickers. Furie had an intensity that I was not expecting and made me better understand the universal appeal of Vietnamese cinema and martial arts films. I found that Furie’s story line wasn’t dissimilar to those commonly featured in Western cinema, but was also packed with the perfect mix of action, comedy and plot strength. In my opinion, the plot resembled Taken, which is possibly part of the reason I was able to engage with it so easily. It was also easy to engage with because of its fast pace and action scenes which generate interest.
However, what stood out to me most about the film was the social and cultural significance of the strong female role. Through the tweeting experience I was able to see that this stood out to other people as well. It was very clear that women were in charge in this film, which is not very common of Vietnamese cinema or action/ martial arts movies more broadly. The film portrays women as multi-dimensional characters in a male driven genre. An analysis of 2000 screenplays reported that 75% of screenplays give most of the dialogue to men, while a 2014 study reported that 2.3 men appear on screen for every 1 woman (Anderson & Daniels, 2016). These statistics highlight the importance of movies such as Furie, as they encourage women to hold more important and strong roles in film.
It has been 35 years since the Law on Equal Opportunities for Employment of Women and Men was enacted in 1985 in Japan, but sociocultural norms and beliefs in gender roles are still deeply rooted in all aspects of Japanese culture (Edwards, 1988). For this reason, roles that place women at the centre of film are so valuable in their ability to actively challenge sociocultural norms.
For these reasons, I think that the most compelling aspect of the main character’s story was her depth and that she did not exist within the story merely as a trope. Hai is definitely the star of the show, and while we do see the detective’s strength in the fight scenes there is never a shift in the power dynamic. This shows that she doesn’t need to be saved by a man, which is a common storyline in most action films. The depth of character was perfectly expressed through the balance between Hai’s love for her daughter, determination to find her and also through her physical strength displayed fight scenes.
The multi-dimensional nature of the character is highlighted in the following stills from the film:
This film challenged my assumptions about martial arts films in its ability to showcase a rich protagonist, seamless transitioning between emotional moments and impressive feats of physical strength. All of these aspects combined to make a unique film that challenged traditional film story lines. Furie invites future films to look beyond their traditional stereotypes and create more compelling stories.
I think this film is very valuable in showing the strength of women and mothers and actively challenges the passivity that is common to many female characters. I believe that my own personal perceptions around film and value for female driven content is crucial to how I have viewed Furie. In turn, this film was pivotal in shaping the way that I view martial arts films more broadly.
Anderson, H and Daniels, M. April 2016. ‘FIlm Dialogue from 2,000 screenplays, Broken Down by Gender and Age’. https://pudding.cool/2017/03/film-dialogue/index.html
Edwards, L. 1988. ‘Equal Employment Opportunity in Japan: A View from the West’, ILR Review