Monday, May 11, 2015

Furious 7

Directed by James Wan.
2015. Rated PG-13, 140 minutes.
Vin Diesel
Paul Walker
Jason Statham
Michelle Rodriguez
Kurt Russell
Dwayne Johnson
Tyrese Gibson
Ronda Rousey
Jordana Brewster
Nathalie Emmanuel
Djimon Hounsou

Just in case you somehow don't know whether or not you want to see Furious 7, I'll go ahead and caution you now. Don't bother if you have the idea that anything even remotely plausible is supposed to happen after a car engine starts. I can assure you, it doesn't. Not a whole lot plausible happens when there is not a car involved, either. There are numerous instances where everyone on the screen should be dead, or broken beyond repair, yet they mostly walk away without a scratch. This is a live-action cartoon. You'll either spend two hours rolling your eyes until they roll out of their sockets or laughing giddily while reveling in all the absurdity. I chose the latter. Like the franchise itself, I embrace its idiocy.

That idiocy manifests itself right away in all its glorious stupidity. In a nod to the Die Hard franchise, we meet bad guy Deckard Shaw (Statham), brother of Fast and Furous 6 villain Owen Shaw (Evans), who isn't dead. Deckard is a former British black-ops type who is now being hunted by the same government he once served. Apparently, he spends his days killing the men they send after him by the dozens. There's at least that many bodies laying around the building he's in during that first scene. By the way, when he leaves this building, it's literally crumbling behind him. It's a hospital. The idiocy? We already know that he's after Toretto (Diesel) and company for what they did to his brother, but this is where he leaves the poor guy? While laughing my ass off, I literally checked either side of me for a seat belt. I wanted to buckle up for this crazy ride I was about to take. Alas, no luck.

The plot that frames this whole thing is about a thingamajig called "God's Eye." It can access any device with a camera anywhere in the world for real time surveillance. It's wanted by a group of terrorists led by Mose Jakande (Hounsou) and by one of those super-secret U.S. organizations led by Frank Petty (Russell). The former is there to give us another bad guy and the latter so we don't question who is paying for all this. Since no one knows where the device is, its creator is also a hot commodity. By hot, I mean the rather sexy Ramsey (Emmanuel). There is also the ongoing saga of Letty (Rodriguez) trying to regain her memory. Hobbs (Johnson) lays in a hospital bed until it's absolutely necessary for him to get up. Not surprisingly, he does this in spectacular fashion. Then there's Brian (Walker). He struggles with being a hubby and a dad, and wants badly to make it home to his wife Mia (Brewster) and their son. All of this is given a backdrop of near-constant banter between Roman (Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris).

The big drawback to Furious 7 is that the real life death of Paul Walker hangs heavily over the proceedings as if the filmmakers put it there on purpose. Between action scenes there is always some time devoted to Mia reminding Brian, and us by extension, that he has an actual family to take care of. Doing this is literally Mia's only purpose in the movie. After decades of watching characters in precisely Brian's position get killed, almost invariably, we're conditioned to expect him to be blown to bits during every single action scene. Us already knowing that the actor can't return for the next installment in the series multiplies that expectation. Even while enjoying the insanity unfolding on the screen, we're also watching Brian more closely than we ever have. He's the hero that must be killed off and we're morbidly curious about how it will be done.

Like I said, though, those action sequences are insane. To call them over the top is underselling them by a long way. Laws of physics be damned. As you might suspect, our team makes lots of plans rather than just jumping into things. Well, they do jump into things, but, I'm getting to that. I mean, it only makes sense to have a plan, right? Whether the plans make any sense or not is another story. They don't. As if to ensure maximum zaniness, each plan approaches the ensuing situation in the dumbest possible manner. My personal fave is the one that starts with driving cars off of a plane in mid-flight thousands of feet off the ground. By the way, this happens immediately after Torreto promises Mia he'll keep her hubby safe and return him to her in one piece. Another part of this plan? Having Brian stand on the hood of the speeding vehicle that he was driving, having it pushed from behind by another car and jumping onto a moving truck. Safety first, I guess.

Fight scenes are also cranked up a thousand notches. Us action fans get the battles we've been dreaming of. Early on, it's Statham vs. The Rock. Later, Statham vs. Vin Diesel. Trust me, everything around these guys gets destroyed. There's also one of those ultimate cat-fights as series staple Michelle Rodriguez takes on another real MMA fighter, Ronda Rousey. Rodriguez took on Gina Carano in part six.

Finally, to alleviate any doubt that the people making this movie were really thirteen year old boys at heart, we get a twist on what's known as establishing shots. During this movie our heroes travel to a number of exotic locations. The way most movies handle this is by making the first shot of each location a wide one highlighting a well-known monument. For instance, establishing we're in New York by showing a shot of the Statue of Liberty. This movie does things like that, but makes sure to follow each with a few extreme close-ups of a handful of female asses. The series has always featured scantily clad babes strolling past the camera. It's just never been so blatant as it is here. We're talking maximum overdrive. I personally didn't mind, but my wife didn't share the sentiment, and a lot of other women, I'm guessing, While these kinds of shots aren't the most artistic choice director James Wan could have made, they epitomize what the movie is going for. It's not trying to be great film-making. It's not attempting to provide us with poignant social commentary, either. Instead, it succeeds at being what it is: so bad, it's awesome!




  3. I don't know how a group of misfit, not overly smart car thieves and street racers because this international crime ring respected and tapped by the FBI, etc, but man, they sure do have fun doing it!

  4. Ha ha, great review, my friend. I watched this a while back and thoroughly loved it, for the sheer stupid, cheesy fun and idiocy it presents without ostentation. I love these films, I love how silly they seem to get but are still a load of fun.

    Hard to believe the 8th film in this franchise is now the fourth highest box office earner ever. Man, that's amazing.

    1. It's crazy that a franchise this far along, and without major breaks between movies like Star Wars, is still such a big earner. Thanks.