Stephen Fung's latest film is an action-comedy hybrid that delivers plenty of boots to the head but misses the mark one too many times to really be classic material. Made with a very mainstream audience in mind and with the hope of having 'block buster' written all over it, House Of Fury plays dumb too often for its own good, but isn't without merit.
The plot isn't overly complicated, nor are the characters. Basically, Teddy (Cat III god among men, Anthony Wong of The Untold Story) is a secret agent who finds working playing protector for retired and aging secret agents. To keep up the ruse that he's not what he seems, however, Teddy operates out of a chiropractor's office that looks like your everyday establishment on the outside but inside houses his secret agent super lair. Not much of note really happens in his secret lair, but when you're a secret agent it's always nice to have one kicking around just in case you find you need one.
Teddy has a life outside the secret agent arena, but has trouble keeping them separate. You'd think with all of his training and all of his involvement in covert operations of many different kinds would ensure that he'd keep his mouth shut about such things, but no, he likes to brag. Who does he like to brag to? His two kids, Natalie (Jillian Chung) and Nicky (Stephen Fung, the director of the film) and their friends, for the most part. Neither of Teddy's kids are all that interested in what he has to say though – with both of them in their teens, Natalie would rather hang out with her friends or her boyfriend Jason (Daniel Wu) and Nicky spends most of his time hanging out with the dolphins at the aquarium where he works. To make matters worse, they think their old man is full of it, not realizing that he really is in fact a top notch secret agent.
Teddy has to put his mediocre home life aside though, because soon an American veteran named Rocco (Michael Wong) who was put into a wheelchair for the rest of his life by a Chinese agent named Dragon comes knocking on Teddy's door looking for Dragon's address. It seems like Rocco and his son are out to settle a grudge and get revenge for what Dragon did to him all those years back. Teddy takes quite a beating from the two Americans but stays loyal to his team and doesn't spill the beans. When Teddy won't put out though, Rocco figures out a better plan to get to him – take down his kids, who happen to have microchips disguised as jewelry around their necks that contain all the information anyone could ever possibly want to know about the Chinese Secret Agents that Teddy is sworn to protect. With Teddy held captive and his kids clueless about what's going on, it looks like Rocco's plan is a sure fire winner, but Teddy and his family have got a few tricks up their sleeves and they're not going down for the count without a fight.
Alright, so the plot sounds a little silly and quite frankly, it is. All is forgivable however as this is, at its core, a comedy and then an action film. Of course, with the comedic aspects of the film and the story playing center field, you're opt to run into some goofiness. Sometimes it works really well, other times not so well, but the bulk of the humor is pretty effective even if some of it does seem to get lost a little bit in the English translation. Aside from some obvious slapstick humor, there's some clever acknowledgements to kung fu cinema's past (a certain Bruce Lee film with a rather similar name is paid tribute to… sort of) and as a comedy and a comedy alone, House Of Fury is of acceptable quality. It's hardly going to replace your favorite laugh fest of all time, but it'll make you chuckle in a few spots and laugh hard at a few more.
The real reason to see the film though, is the action. Yeah, a lot of it is obvious wirework and there's a CGI helping hand visible in a few scenes, but if you look at the big picture the fight choreography and martial arts direction, courtesy of the legendary Yuen Wo Ping, is pretty tight. It doesn't matter that some of the participants are Asian pop stars, it doesn't matter that they're not real life masters of the martial arts – what matters is that Ping's scenes do make you believe, at least in the far fetched and ridiculous context of the film, that they could be. Some of the staff fighting is fantastic, and one scene in particular involving a length of chain is also pretty remarkable. Plenty of fast punching and high kicking abounds, and when the comedy is intertwined with the fights, the movie really shines.
So while you may not necessarily picture Anthony Wong as a martial artist capable of taking on a band of white clad ninjas or think of some of the other, younger, 'poppier' cast members as hard ass fighting machines, House Of Fury still proves to be an enjoyable, light hearted action comedy mix that, even if it breaks very little new ground, is fun, entertaining stuff.
House Of Fury benefits from a very sharp and colorful 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There's a very high level of both foreground and background detail present in the image, and the colors are bright, bold and distinct. Flesh tones look lifelike and quite natural, while black levels remain strong throughout. Print damage is pretty much non-existent (as it should be for such a recent film) and grain, while present if you're looking for it, is never problematic. The only flaws that are really noticeable, and they're minor when they occur, are some mild instances of edge enhancement and some trails in a few of the action scenes (more noticeable if you watch the movie on a PC monitor than on an actual TV, but there none the less).
There are three audio options on this DVD – in Cantonese there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix and a DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mix and in Mandarin, there is a dubbed Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix. Optional subtitles are available in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, and English. Both the Cantonese Dolby Digital and DTS mixes sound great with plenty of action coming at you from all channels most notably during the fight scenes and action oriented scenes. Dialogue is nice and clear and the background music swells up behind you and overtop of you during a few of the more memorable moments in the film. The Mandarin dub is of decent quality, but the dubbing on it is pretty obvious so unless you're fluent in Mandarin and opposed to subtitles, stick with one of the two original language mixes. As far as the subtitles are concerned, at least the English ones, there are a few awkward phrases here and there but nothing that's glaringly awful and there aren't any spelling mistakes. For a Hong Kong release, the subs on this disc are better than average.
On the first disc, aside from scene selection, language options and animated menus, you'll find an option called Choice Of Action which is essentially an eighteen minute clip of the fight scenes from the film all edited together in sequence. Aside from that, there's also a short teaser promo and the film's theatrical trailer. All of the extras on the first disc include optional English subtitles.
The second disc is where the bulk of the supplements are found, but sadly, nothing on this disc, not even the menus (aside from one or two little title bits) have an English subtitle option, so I won't be able to go into a whole lot of detail about what's on here. From what I could tell though, there's a selection of character bios called the Top Secret Files that give write ups, in Chinese, on Teddy, Natalie, Nicky, Ella and Jason, as well as on Rocco and his two thug buddies. There's also forty-five minutes worth of on camera video interview footage with the five main performers from the film, but again, no English option, so I've really no idea what they were talking about. Moving right along we find a making of documentary that runs just over forty-eight minutes in length and which features some candid footage, some fight choreography footage and a lot of general behind the scenes shenanigans. Up next is the Leaders section which are two Chinese text pieces on the director and on Yuen Wo Ping, who did the martial arts direction on the film. Last but not least is something called Supplementary Information that's all in Chinese (I've no idea what info this is referring to) and then four separate still galleries.
Joy Sales has put together a great package for a decent film. Audio and video quality is top notch and while I couldn't understand the unsubbed extra features, there sure were a lot of them. The movie itself is good fun – there's nothing really deep about it or revolutionary in any way, shape, or form but there's plenty of killer fight scenes and lots of great stunt work to keep things exciting. If you like a little humor mixed in with your martial arts and don't mind a rather commercial tone to your movies, House Of Fury is recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.