Nicky (Stephen Fung) and Natalie (Gillian Chung) are embarrassed by their dad, Yue Siu Bo (Anthony Wong). Every day the widowed chiropractor picks them up from school and brags to all their friends about his heroic past as a kung fu super-spy. Ella (Charlene Choi), Natalie’s bright and sassy best friend, notices a few inconsistencies in Siu Bo’s tall tales (“The last time you told this story you said there were six ninjas!” “Six? Er, I meant twelve”), which embarrasses his kids even more. Family relations are far from harmonious. Nicky and Natalie put their martial arts skills to ill use, quarrelling constantly while Siu Bo wishes his wife were alive to help raise them right. One day, the mysterious, wheelchair bound Rocco (Michael Wong) visits Siu Bo’s clinic, asking questions about someone called Tai Chi Lung. Siu Bo feigns ignorance and is kidnapped and tortured, while assassins target his children. Aided by Ella, and Natalie’s boyfriend Jason (Daniel Wu), the kids escape and set out to save their dad.
This madcap, martial arts comedy-thriller is a sophomore outing for young actor/director, Stephen Fung. Posters and publicity stills show Canto-pop superstars Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi posing in kung fu pyjamas, but don’t be fooled. It’s a shameless attempt to lure fans expecting Twins Effect III. Choi wisecracks through a handful of early scenes, lounges seductively before tongue-tied Nicky, and floors some bad guys with a fire-extinguisher - but that’s your lot. She disappears for eighty minutes; off to film the infinitely superior A Chinese Tall Story (2005). Fortunately, scrappy Gillian holds her own, dropping villains like a pint-sized powerhouse. She and co-star Stephen Fung shine throughout slapstick set-pieces choreographed by veteran Yuen Woo Ping. There is a believable antagonism between brother and sister, culminating in an hilarious kung fu tussle over the TV remote control. As director, Fung does a good job maintaining a furious pace with slick visuals seemingly inspired by the Spy Kids movies. More impressive, as co-screenwriter he weaves in the obligatory message about families sticking together, skilfully and warmly, and includes a few neat twists. However, House of Fury has several major problems.
Chief among them: Anthony Wong, severely miscast, and phoning in another glassy-eyed performance. No amount of wirework or CG effects will convince you he’s a kung fu badass, which might be forgivable had he an ounce of charisma. Wong is a hot name in Hong Kong cinema at the moment, which is why he’s been shoehorned into a role better suited to someone like Ti Lung or Sammo Hung[S/TAR]. Co-star [STAR]Wu Ma outclasses Wong in every way. Though he’s obviously CG-doubled in some scenes, Ma is energetic and poignant as Uncle Chiu, the family friend with something to hide. Another problem Rocco’s muddled back-story. A C.I.A. agent out to foil an Al-Qaeda attack on the United States he was crippled by Hong Kong secret agent Tai Chi Lung. Now he wants revenge and to recover a list of terrorist operatives. Eh?! He’s the villain?! Regardless of feelings about American foreign policy, you must admit the screenwriters chose a curious motivation for their bad guy. Rocco’s use of torture and murder is wholly reprehensible, but if Tai Chi Lung hadn’t crippled him in the first place… And why the hell are the HK secret service out to save terrorists? Fung downplays this aspect of the story, but knowing the knock-on effect makes it hard to root for Nicky and Natalie. Isn’t this supposed to be a teen comedy?
House of Fury features a strong supporting turn from the ever-underrated Daniel Wu, but accomplished actress Josie Ho is grievously wasted as a femme fatale who doesn’t utter a single word. Far more impressive is spiky haired, American youngster Jacob Strickland. He displays some prodigious martial arts skills as an evil adolescent who locks horns with Nicky. Canto-pop fans should keep their eyes peeled. In a neat joke, all the students at Gillian’s school are played by boy band and girl group members.