The Hong Kong movie industry continues to confound with the release of Stephen Fung’s “House of Fury”. With all the financial woes they’ve had of late (the seemingly unstoppable commercial success of Stephen Chow’s “Kung Fu Hustle” notwithstanding), it’s a mystery why moneymen like Jackie Chan (whose company produced “House of Fury”) would pony up the big budget for something as light and forgettable as this Stephen Fung action-comedy. There’s nothing overly original about the film; at best it’s an inoffensive popcorn flick for the kiddie crowd, and at worst it’s 90 minutes of unsatisfying fighting and cursory attempts at comedy. Having said that, I suppose if you had absolutely nothing to do with 90 minutes of your life, you could waste it on worst things than “House of Fury”. At least with “Fury” you’ll get to see the lovely Josie Ho decked out in black leather and delivering awesome kicks to Anthony Wong’s face, as well as the always lovely Gillian Chung flashing some impressive elegant kung fu.
“House of Fury” stars the ubiquitous Anthony Wong as Teddy, a secret agent whose job it is to protect retired secret agents. Teddy’s civilian disguise is as a chiropractor, and he has his own business which houses a secret lair — well, it’s a very white room with nonfunctioning monitors, but otherwise it’s just a back room with really bright white walls. Actually, Teddy never really uses that room for much of anything, and I guess its presence is just to confirm Teddy’s status as a secret agent. Although why Teddy is so haphazard about where he places the secret button to his secret lair (behind a portrait that easily flips open when someone taps on the wall next to it, no less) is one of those mysteries only the scriptwriter can bluff an answer to.
For years, Teddy has been telling whoppers about his secret agent life to his kids Nicky (director Stephen Fung) and Natalie (Gillian Chung, one half of the equally ubiquitous “Twins” pop duo). The catch is that crazy old dad’s stories are actually true, if a tad inflated for kiddie consumption. Actually, Dad likes to tell his tall tales of fighting ninjas and vanishing supervillains to young boys and girls at daughter Natalie’s school, much to Natalie’s embarrassment. One wonders why he does it, as one would assume that being trained as a super duper secret agent includes disciplines involving some measure of discretion. Then again, that type of common sense logic doesn’t have any place in “House of Fury”.
Now in her teens, all Natalie wants to do is hang out with her gal pal (played by the other half of the “Twins”, Charlene Choi) and talk on the phone with her nerdy boyfriend Jason (Daniel Wu, “New Police Story”). Nicky, meanwhile, works at a Seaworld-esque place and likes to talk about his familial problems with his dolphins. As the kids like to confess, they think life with dad would be so much better if he’d just stop telling them his lies. Which brings up another point: for a man versed in secret agent training, and who holds the lives of a lot of people in his hands, ol Teddy is pretty absent-minded about spilling the beans to anyone who’ll listen, as his loose mouth has turned off his kids, as well as his kids’ friends.
Enter Rocco (Michael Wong), a bald and wheelchair bound ex-American soldier who has a grudge to settle. Paralyzed for life by a super duper secret kung fu move performed by an unseen Chinese agent known only as The Dragon, Rocco has come back to Hong Kong with his high-sticking American son to get some payback. (Rocco’s background is a bit murky, but suffice it to say that he once worked for the Eeeeeeeeevil American Government.) Since Teddy is responsible for guarding all the ex-secret agents, Rocco goes to Teddy for Dragon’s whereabouts. Teddy, constrained by all that loyalty and duty hassle, doesn’t give it up, even after he’s beaten, drugged, tasered, tickled — well, no, not tickled. Although he does get syringed in the back of the neck, which I hear is twice as painful as getting tickled.
That leaves Rocco to go after the kids, which is convenient, as Teddy, being a veteran and very experience secret agent, has hidden those McGuffin microchips that contains the names of Dragon and all the other ex-secret agents under his protection with his kids — disguised as plastic necklaces, no less! Hmm, I wonder what would happen if the kids accidentally or purposely tossed away their necklaces, as they don’t seem to care very much for them? Oh boy, wouldn’t Teddy be in a big mess with his bosses. Well actually, I don’t think Teddy would get into all that much trouble, as once Rocco takes Teddy hostage, there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a “Chinese spy agency” to come to the rescue.
As “brain mush” entertainment goes, “House of Fury” will suffice, as it shows little inclination towards any semblance of ambition. There’s really not a lot here for the adults to grapple onto, as anyone over the age of 10 will immediately turn off whenever the soundtrack starts in with its solo piano pings, as it means it’s time yet again for a contrived “poignant” moment between father and kids. Actually, it’s quite painful how amateurish Fung handles the film’s unconvincing attempts at pathos. We also learn that when Teddy’s not getting on the bad side of his kids (which seems to be often, as Teddy likes to talk, being a secret agent unaware of that whole “discretion” thing), Teddy is in his room talking to a picture of his dead wife. It’s not just pathos, kids, it’s by-the-numbers pathos, which makes it doubly, er, generic.
The only element of “House of Fury” that saves it from being a complete disaster is the abundant action. The fisticuffs is of the cartoonish variety, where Anthony Wong can fight four of Rocco’s gang for hours on end, destroy a whole room, break about 50 glass tables, and no one shows signs of a bruise. Wong, who is not known for his action films, actually handles himself quite well. Along with Fung and Gillian Chung, the main cast are surprisingly very believable as martial artists, even if Fung has a tendency to undercrank the camera. Gillian Chung in particular is impressive, much so here than in some of her other movies, the asinine “Twins Effect” films included.
Of course the real problem with “House of Fury” is the asinine script, but sadly that’s to be expected of any movie that stars both Twins. It’s probably unfair to say so, but it’s also a sad fact. The Twins, as an acting duo, haven’t had any luck with finding a script that was written by adults with an understanding of narrative logic. Separately, the girls seem to choose projects well enough, but it’s together that they completely lose their sense of quality. As such, for the undiscriminating viewer, 90 minutes of “House of Fury” is not a bad way to kill some unneeded brain cells.
Stephen Fung (director)
CAST: Gillian Chung …. Natalie
Stephen Fung …. Nicky
Josie Ho ….
Anthony Wong …. Teddy
Michael Wong …. Rocco
Daniel Wu …. Jason