Tuesday, May 1, 2007

House of Fury (Hong Kong 2005)

A near perfect example of style over substance, House of Fury marks Stephen Fung's second foray into directing territory. The jokes are clearly aimed at a younger audience, but thanks to some excellent action choreography from Yuen Wo Ping, the end result is a film that's good enough to please hardcore martial arts aficionados and the little ones as well. Families are more than welcome.

Siu Bo (Anthony Wong), an aging widower, works as a practitioner in ancient Chinese medicine at a clinic which is frequented by his close friend Uncle Chiu (Ma Wu). When he's not running his clinic, he's at home trying to deal with his two, near-grown and constantly bickering children, Nicky (Stephen Fung) and Natalie (Gillian Chung). Nicky works as a dolphin trainer at Ocean Park and swoons over his sisters cute friend Ella (Charlene Choi). Natalie, on the other hand, has a significant other in Jason (Daniel Wu), a musician with a bad Cantonese accent who just wants to make a good impression on the family by doing cute things like bringing a baby pig over for dinner. Siu Bo loves to embarrass his children by telling jokes and stories about how life used to be and all of the exciting things he used to do in front of his children's friends. Naturally, his kids never take anything dad has to say as truth and would rather he just shut up. It's a seemingly typical family relationship that's only unique due to the fact that everyone knows kung-fu and they're not afraid to use it! Nicky and Natalie love to squabble with each other and lucky for us viewers, they make it look so good.

A typical day at the 'office' turns into anything but when Rocco (played by questionably talented Michael Wong) shows up to question Siu Bo on the location of a man named Tai Chi Lung. Apparently this Tai Chi Lung is responsible for paralyzing Rocco from the neck down twelve years ago while Rocco was on a mission in the Philippines. Now Rocco has arrived in Hong Kong to return the favor. Siu Bo plays the fool and sends Rocco and his son Nelson (14 year old karate/taekwondo prodigy Jake Strickland) packing. We know Siu Bo is hiding something and suddenly all those stories about being a secret agent and doing undercover work don't seem so far-fetched. Unfortunately for Siu Bo, Rocco knows he's hiding the truth as well and sends his henchman to beat the answers out of him and trash the clinic in the process. Rocco takes Siu Bo captive and now it's up to Nicky and Natalie, with a little help from their friends, to find dear old dad and discover who this Tai Chi Lung is once and for all. The 'third-act' has a surprise(?) twist to it that you really won't care about. After finding out who's who, you'll more than likely just be eagerly awaiting when the next fights going to happen.

Everyone does what's required of them for the sake of the movie, as it's most definitely not a vehicle in which to show off acting chops. It's all very passable stuff for the most part. Anthony Wong is an actor who makes every performance look effortless (and I mean that in a good way). Gillian Chung does a fine job at playing the stereotypical diva-like younger sister, who transitions nicely into a butt-kicking action heroine when the time is right. Stephen Fung does more than adequate with his fighting scenes. Daniel Wu just hangs out most of the time, coming into play later on in the movie in ways in which I can't reveal here, while Charlene Choi manages to stay on screen just long enough to make it a starring role and not a cameo. Jake Strickland, 14 years old or not, can really hold his own and his skills with a bo are pretty amazing. His acting on the other hand was pretty terrible, to the point where you could really believe he was Michael Wong's son. Speaking of which, the real bad guy of the movie, in more ways than one, is indeed Michael Wong as Rocco. Not only is he the villain in the traditional sense of movie baddies, but his horrible acting makes him even more of a threat. He speaks in English only (except for a sentence or two in Cantonese), and you'd swear that he's just reading off the script while the cameras are rolling. The man couldn't deliver a pizza, let alone a line of dialogue. Be afraid dear viewer...be very afraid.

We definitely aren't dealing with an award-winning storyline here either, but anything more than what we get wouldn't be necessary. It really just serves as filler in-between the real reason you're watching in the first place: the fight scenes, and boy are their a lot of them. Seeing as we have the best in the business responsible for planning out the action, that's a good thing. Yuen Wo Ping, together with Stephen Fung's direction, does an outstanding job at making the actor's look like they really know how to fight. To Stephens credit the shots are cut in just the right way so that your not clearly looking at a stunt double performing some of these moves, and the fact that Stephen lets the actors 'breath' by actually showing us the fights is icing on the cake. There is nothing worse in a martial arts film than tight shots where the audience can't even tell whats going on or who's hitting who. Equally as impressive are the close-ups of the actors actually performing some of these well-choreographed scenes, leaving no question of their capability. At times the action relies a little too much on the wires, or cables, or whatever you want to call them, making for some obvious and ugly looking moves, but these instances are more in the minority than majority. The scene at the closed Ocean Park with Nicky, Natalie and two of Rocco's hench(women) was my personal favorite, minus the wire-fu of course.

It's campy and it's childish, but it's also fun and often times entertaining. You couldn't have asked for a better action choreographer than Yuen Wo Ping to give House of Fury and it's 'almost' entireley A-list cast some much needed credibility. However, you could've asked for a better actor to play Rocco. In the end, not even Michael Wong could ruin House of Fury and that's really saying something. (Lee)

Buy House of Fury on DVD, VCD, or UMD for SONY PSP at YESASIA!

No comments: