Saturday, April 11, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7

Furious 7
Directed by: James Wan.
Written by: Chris Morgan based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson.
Starring: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O'Conner), Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Lucas Black (Sean Boswell), Kurt Russell (Mr. Nobody), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), John Brotherton (Sheppard), Tony Jaa (Kiet), Djimon Hounsou (Jakande), Ali Fazal (Safar), Ronda Rousey (Kara).

While I am never going to join the Fast and Furious cult – those film critics who somehow see this series of films as some sort of masterpieces, I do have to admit that over time, this series has worn me down, and won me over with its increasingly absurd brand of action filmmaking. I didn’t think too much of the first three films – which were sort of bland and forgettable, but starting with the fourth installment, it seems like the filmmakers have decided simply to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the films. They have shot down planes, leap off across bridges, dragged enormous safes through the streets, and engaged in all sorts of mayhem – all while looking good, driving insanely expensive, fast cars and surrounded by women, who are all insanely good looking. I don’t think I’ll ever love a Fast and Furious movie – but dammit it all if I don’t find them fun.

The latest installment once again finds Dominic Tortetto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his team, sorry “family”, having to go up against some insane bad guys. This time, it’s Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the brother of Owen, who was the bad guy in the last film who the team put in a coma. Deckard isn’t happy about that – and like every bad guy in every action movie, he’s a rogue, ex-elite forces guy, who moves like a shadow, and can kill any and everyone who gets in his way. In the time honored tradition of action villains everywhere, he wants revenge for what our heroes did to his family – and he’s going to get it. But how can Toretto, O’Conner and company track a shadow? That, of course, requires them to get an insane sounding computer program, which means first they need to rescue the hacker who made that program and has been kidnapped by some mean, bad guys in the middle of nowhere. And they’ll need the help of a shadow on their side – Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) – to do so. Through the course of the movie they will parachute out of planes – in their cars of course – and they also drive an even more insanely priced car inside of a skyscraper in the Middle East, whose brakes fail meaning they have to jump it from one building to the next. There are also gunfights, insane hand-to-hand combat sequences (which is why they brought in Tony Jaa obviously), and even modern day gladiatorial style fighting with giant wrenches. All of it is completely and totally ridiculous – and all of is also totally entertaining.

The director this time in James Wan – best known for horror movies like Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring – taking over for Justin Lin, who directed the last four installments. Wan isn’t quite as good as Lin is at directing the insane action sequences – but he more than gets the job done. Considering however just how good he is at mainstream horror – 2007’s misfire Dead Silence aside – I think I’d rather him keep making those films however. But hey, he seems to be having fun like everyone else involved in the project, so who I am to complain.

The series, when it hasn’t been doing insane stunts, has had a lot of talk about family – something that it underlines a little too much this time out. The untimely death of Walker gives a poignancy to the film that the other films lacked – and while you could accuse the film of being shamefully manipulative in trying to milk tears from the audience, especially in the final scenes, I thought it was a rather fitting, and respectful tribute to Walker. I may not have cried – like some have admitted to – but I came closer than I ever thought a Fast and Furious movie could get me.

To me, Furious 7 marks an obvious end point to the series. How many more times can they really go to this well? The worst installments are the probably the ones that don’t feature both Diesel and Walker – neither are really great actors, both are perfect for this series and their roles in it – so I feel it’s time to call it quits. This segment even started edging towards Expendables territory, bringing a bunch of action stars for “guest appearances” – like Jaa, Russell and Statham – and so it’s probably best before the series really jumps the shark. Then again, the film made $140 million in North America on opening weekend, so I’m sure we’ll see Furious 8 – or Fast 8 or whatever the hell they’re going to call it. And more than likely, so help me God, I’ll be there.

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