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House of Fury

(top left) Stephen Fung, Wu Ma, Gillian Chung, (top center) Anthony Wong, (right) Gillian Chung.
(bottom left) Stephen Fung, (bottom center) Gillian Chung, Daniel Wu, and Stephen Fung.
Chinese: 精武家庭  
Year: 2005
Director: Stephen Fung Tak-Lun
Producer: Willie Chan, Solon So, Jackie Chan
Writer: Stephen Fung Tak-Lun, Lo Yiu-Fai
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Stephen Fung Tak-Lun,Gillian Chung Yun-Tung, Michael Wong Mun-Tak, Daniel Wu,Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Josie Ho Chiu-Yi, Wu Ma, Winnie Leung Man-Yi, Philip Ng Won-Lung, Jonathan Foo, Jacob Strickland, Law Kar-Ying, Jason Tobin, Asuka Higuchi, Lee Ka-Ting, Donald Tong Kim-Hong, Siu Yeah-Jim
The Skinny: Stephen Fung's second film has decent pacing and an abundance of fun fighting that compensates for spotty acting, obvious direction, and a ridiculous paper-thin premise. House of Fury does the job for commercial fluff, and is a textbook example of how a dopey action comedy can still entertain. Plus it's three trillion times better than Seoul Raiders.
by Kozo:

It's Take Two for Stephen Fung, director. Last year's Enter the Phoenix was Fung's first shot at directing, and he did decently for a freshman filmmaker. This year's House of Fury ups the ante. Not only does Fung have a more box-office friendly cast (Anthony Wong plus those pesky Twins), but he's got a collaborator supreme in action director Yuen Woo-Ping, a story that references the beloved world of Bruce Lee, and the added pressure of a possible sophomore slump. Fung comes through okay, showing the same sense of humor that made Enter the Phoenix an entertaining, though minor amusement. However, Fung hasn't progressed that much since his first film, so the bumps evident in Fung's skills are magnified this time around. The result is frightfully uneven and egregiously cheesy, but there's still enough here to make House of Fury another entertaining, though minor amusement. Just don't expect Kung Fu Hustle.

Anthony Wong stars as Siu Bo, a blustery middle-aged widower raising two sparring young kids. Son Nicky (Stephen Fung) works at Ocean Park, and is constantly annoyed at his seemingly stereotypical sister Natalie (Gillian Chung). She talks on the phone all the time with her boyfriend Jason (Daniel Wu, NOT reprising his role from Beyond Our Ken), and is portrayed as someone of her age and sex frequently is: as a moody and petulant little princess. She spars all the time with Nicky, but there's an added twist to their sibling rivalry: KUNG FU! Siu Bo is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, and knows how to kick ass. He taught his kids too; Nicky and Natalie can bust out serious movies when they want to fight over a remote control, or kung-fu kick beneath the dinner table. The official international title for House of Fury could be Kung Fu Family.

Too bad the plot of House of Fury isn't as inspired as its setup. With a kung fu dad and some kung fu kids, one could almost almost have imagined a Shaolin Soccer-type storyline, only with school and family dynamics subbing in for the soccer action. Stephen Fung and Gillian Chung make delightful sparring siblings, and Anthony Wong owns all with another fine performance as pop Siu Bo. Wong can go from dopey and blustery to grave and commanding in a matter of seconds, and he never loses the audience along the way. Even in the most fluffy of roles, Wong can impress, and he does so here with charismatic grace, and self-effacing charm. Charlene Choi shows up as Natalie's pal Ella, and is given the worst lines and the least to do (Choi is noticeably absent from the film's final release poster), while Daniel Wu makes the most of his limited, somewhat dopey part. Wu Ma makes a welcome return to the screen as an old comrade of Siu Bo's, and the minor roles (Josie Ho turns up in what must be a favor to Stephen Fung) are decently played, it not actually fleshed out.

But then there are two words: Michael Wong. Why Stephen Fung chose to cast Wong as the villain of House of Fury is a mystery that will probably never be solved. Not only is Wong totally wrong for the part, but anyone who is familiar with his work should have known that months before casting began. Wong is Rocco, a (WARNING: NOT REALLY A SPOILER) wheelchair-bound cueball who once worked as a CIA agent. He's looking for the Chinese agent who put him in a wheelchair, and the key may be Siu Bo, who claims to have once been a G4 agent assigned to protect former spies. His kids think he's a blowhard and don't believe him, he has troubles raising them, yadda yadda yadda. Yeah, that's the main plot. But back to Michael Wong: he stops the movie cold every time he opens his mouth. Not only is he given terrible dialogue, but Wong is required to deliver his lines stone-faced, and in his usual flat English. Even worse, he chooses to enunciate slowly, so much so that he starts to sound like a Books-on-Tape version of last year's tax laws. Since he's stuck in a wheelchair, all of Wong's scenes involve the camera staring at his mug, while he drones (literally) on and on about his thirst for revenge. If anyone falls asleep during House of Fury, I would bet big money that it happens during one of Wong's speeches. They're that interminable.

The rest of the plot isn't that exciting either. Rocco comes for Siu Bo, who refuses to talk, so he gets kidnapped and the kids must rescue him. Tada! Ninety-five minutes of braindead fun. House of Fury is most definitely braindead, but thankfully it's also fun. This is largely due to Yuen Woo-Ping, who brings his stellar action choreography to the mix. This film was produced by EEG and Jackie Chan, and never pretends to have any importance or meaning beyond its commercial trappings. As a result, it doesn't truly insult, and when the fighting kicks in, it becomes entertaining stuff that puts other Twins movies to shame. No offense to other fight choreographers, but Yuen Woo-Ping is a master of screen fighting, and brings good impact and fun choreography to the frequent—and sometimes quite long—fight sequences. Even better, he gets Stephen Fung, Anthony Wong, and most especially Gillian Chung to look like reasonable kung-fu fighters—when they're not doubled. Chung takes to the miniature kung-fu princess role exceptionally well. She's adorably tough, and throws herself into the fight scenes admirably. Fans of cute kung-fu heroines: you could have a new idol.

The combination of fighting, genial humor, and likable leads is what makes House of Fury a success—with the caveat that this is a fluffy cinematic exercise that's as intelligent and exciting as a pet rock. Stephen Fung manages to pace the film well, and seems to understand how to tell a story—even when it's a frightfully thin one like this. Unfortunately, Fung's technique is largely transparent, and given to bothersome devices like a crying in the rain sequence (*yawn*), and too many faux-emotional moments between fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and probably cats and dogs, had Fung bothered to put them in the film. If you're looking for pets, there is a cloying pet pig which shows up for some easy laughs, and if you want you can even put Charlene Choi in the pet category. She plays Nicky's love interest, and puts on a teen Lolita act during her 3-4 short scenes. This is all par for a Twins/EEG extravaganza, and Fung uses his commercial assets pretty well. Enter the Phoenix is a better overall film as its ridiculous plot had more zip, while House of Fury's ridiculous plot is dull and predictable. No surprises occur, but when the fighting happens—and again, it happens a lot—most audiences probably won't care.

House of Fury does have its share of disappointment. Putting aside the been-there, done-that feeling of a Twins or Daniel Wu-Stephen Fung reteaming, there is one auspicious reteaming that's notable only for its bizarre sadness. When Rocco first wheels into Siu Bo's shop, they face off in an inscrutable battle of wills that's punctuated by its lack of actual tension and Michael Wong's uninteresting acting. However, those who fondly remember the late nineties just might say, "Holy crap! It's the guys from Beast Cops!" This Wong-Wong teaming does nothing to recall those days, except perhaps remind some people of how Beast Cops is a much better movie than anything made today. Right now, it's doubtful that Fung could ever reach those filmmaking heights, but for fluffy commercial cinema, he's not a bad option, and will hopefully improve. (Though if House of Fury is an indication of how much Stephen Fung will improve between films, he'll have to be on film #1000 to make anything even close to Beast Cops). House of Fury is really nothing more than a dopey action comedy, but it's got enough fighting panache, genial humor, and fun star turns to make it minor and amusing stuff. There's a place reserved in every country's cinema for throwaway crap like this, and House of Fury fits that bill just fine. (Kozo 2005)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Joy Sales (HK)
Region 0 (NTSC)
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Interviews, Behind the Scenes, Photo Gallery
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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