House of Fury
Reviewed by daface
Chinese Title: Jing wu mo sing
Directors: Stephen Fung, Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast: Gillian Chung, Jon Foo, Stephen Fung, Josie Ho, Philip Ng, Jake Strickland, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
Genre: Action comedy
Country: Hong Kong
Year Released: 2005
(This review is brought to you courtesy of MovieXclusive's lucky-draw invitation, without which it won't be out today, and I wouldn't have as much fun at the gala premiere)
The overall narrative feel of House of Fury, is a mixture of Tim Burton's Big Fish, and Pixar's The Incredibles (with super powers replaced by kungfu prowess), but the delivery is not as polished.
Simply put, it is a story about a family, consisting of two children, played by director Stephen Fung, and Gillian Chung, one half of Hong Kong pop duo Twins, and their single father, played by Anthony Wong. The latters secret agent past catches up with him and threatens the family. Like Big Fish, while dramatizing his colorful past in delightful unbeatable-secret-agent-kung-fu-prowess stories, his children outgrow them and their disbelief causes their relationship with their father to be distant at best. Until somewhere along the way when they discover that those stories have some element of truth behind them.
Like The Incredibles, we are shown the potential of the kids, who naturally have learned kung fu, in a similar dining table setting. When daddy is threatened, we know that it is up to the children to bail him out, and in the process, improve family ties.
The Mandarin title contains the phrase "Jing Wu", which invokes Bruce Lees film "Jing Wu Men" ("Fist of Fury"). Thus it pays homage while simultaneously elicits comparison with that classic. The name of Anthony Wong's shop also contains the words "Jing Wu". During his fight with Japanese ninja-type adversaries, we see the not-so-subtle break up of the shop's name ("zhao pai") to emphasize "Jing Wu", and become hilarious and creative make-shift nanchakus (a pair of hardwood sticks joined by a chain and used as a weapon). There is also the obligatory fight with an "Ang Mo" ("red-haired" Westerner), and in this show, the Ang Mo is reduced to a teenage sensation whose expertise is with the staff. (We can't expect Chuck Norris now can we?)
The artistes are no real-life exponents, and it is left to Yuen Wo Ping to fashion the martial arts scenes. I applaud the filmmakers deliberate crafting of various martial arts for the lead actors - Anthony Wong's style is subtle yet forceful (funny at times), Stephen Fung's direct and in-your-face, while Gillian Chung's is graceful, elegant, yet packs a punch (I like hers best).
The wire-work seems to be out of place in a movie like this, and it is not executed to perfection, so the audience can tell when it is being used. In a martial arts or pugilistic world, we can suspend our belief when exponents fly from tree to tree. Even in the unreal world of The Matrix, we accept that the laws of physics need not apply to those who are "free". However, setting a film in a real world scenario, and yet see people float around, somehow doesn't cut it. My personal opinion is that if the kung fu was more grounded (pardon the pun) then it will be perfect. And yes, wire-work with wires digitally removed doesn't mean one should opt shoddy work - watch and you will see what I mean.
The good-looking cast does compensate somewhat. There are special appearances by Daniel Wu and Charlene Choi, but it is the veterans like Anthony Wong and Wu Ma who lend their acting weight to this otherwise fluffy teenybopper show. The villains, led by Michael Wong, a cross between Austin Power's Dr. Evil and James Bond's Blofeld on a wheelchair, are one-dimensional, and most prefer to let their fighting do the talking.
Like most Hong Kong contemporary movies, it is peppered with comedic moments throughout the film, very simple romances, a predictable plot cum ending without much emotional depth or intelligence. During the interview before the show, Stephen Fung was asked what the message of this film was, but he sidestepped the answer, asking the audience to watch and decide for themselves. The cop-out answer is as unthinking as the film. Nevertheless, treated as a popcorn movie, it is enjoyable.
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