House of Fury (2005)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-10-28
Convincing an audience to suspend their disbelief sufficiently to accept a pop music star as a fighter is much more complex than getting the stunt doubles, wire work, CGI and editing to mesh, although that is difficult enough in itself. The actors have to carry themselves with enough authority so that the contrast between their action scenes and the rest of their screen time isn’t too jarring. While “Twins Effect II” was a complete flop in accomplishing this, “House of Fury” was a qualified success.

This may have been due in part to concentrating on only one of the Twins. Gillian Chung did a more than adequate job of acting like a high school girl who is embarrassed by her father, annoyed to no end by her brother, in love with a boyfriend and, incidentally, has been trained in kung fu since she was old enough to walk. She also hits the appropriate poses and stances—at least those that have been made iconic by modern action heroines. Stephen Fung is less successful but since he directed the movie something would have to suffer. In this case it was the verisimilitude of his performance. Directing and taking a major part is very difficult. An example is John Sayles who is one of the most successful independent writer/directors working U. S. film. He always casts himself in his movies but in a part that doesn’t develop, one that he can learn and forget about. Since he also writes his movies he has an advantage in this. Clint Eastwood and Francois Truffaut have each directed and starred in major movies but only after decades of experience. Fung won’t have to decide between star billing and the director’s chair but should probably pick one or the other on a project by project basis.

The plot didn’t make much sense and, one imagines, wasn’t meant to. Anthony Wong can convince me he is capable of anything—the first scene of the movie in which he holds a number of teenagers spellbound with outrageous tales of his exploits is a good if unintended metaphor of his ability to create a character and sell it to an audience. That he never really seems to be in mortal danger is a function both of the script and also of Michael Wong who is simply unable to play a really threatening bad guy. Putting his character in a wheelchair with only limited movement of his fingers makes sense based on his story but it didn’t make Rocco any easier to play. With only his voice, face and movement of his head with which to create a role Wong was well out of his depth.

Daniel Wu had one of those impossible roles that might have looked good on paper but shouldn’t have made it to the screen like it did. Playing an undercover agent who is pretending to be Natalie’s slightly nerdy boyfriend but who is actually the agent sent to replace Natalie’s father is even clumsier than it sounds. Charlene Choi had just enough presence so that “House of Fury” could be billed as a Twins project.

There were too many lame references to older kung fu movies—when Anthony Wong’s chiropractic sign is knocked down so that the characters read “Fist of Fury” you just know he is going to do a Bruce Lee imitation. Once was OK but the second and third times should have been cut. A heavier hand on the editing console would have saved Stephen Fung from embarrassment years from now when this movie is screened. Among the scenes left in was on in which the camera tracked to follow Jason into Natalie’s room. As the camera moves on the dolly it shows the “missing” fourth wall as if Fung had just discovered he could move the camera and was so taken with this shot he decided to leave it in.

Self indulgence aside, Fung proved to be a competent director. Shots were framed properly although the camera did keep a too respectful distance from the actors and the action.

A decent effort and worth watching with one’s expectations kept in check
Reviewer Score: 6