It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!
Title: Furious Seven
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action, Spy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky
Director: James Wan
Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Budget: $190 Million
Box Office: $1.5 Billion
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%
The last movie (so far) in the Fast and the Furious franchise, at least until the 8th installment. Next week, I’ll be starting a new franchise or pulling something random off my shelves. It all depends on what I’m in the mood for.
Five years have passed since, Dom, Brian and the others made a deal for their freedom with Hobbs. They think they’re done with the past, the past isn’t done with them. Shaw’s brother Deckard knows who put his brother into the hospital and has declared vengeance upon Hobb, Dom and the others. He’s better trained and better equipped, taking Hobbs out early. The government cuts another deal with Dom. If he rescues a hacker for them, then the government will give Dom the hacker’s program “God’s Eye” to Dom and enough resources to stop Deckard to secure the safety of the family. From Abu Dhabi back to the streets of LA, it’s black ops against the streets and everything they’ve built is on the line.
There is a tendency with a long term series of movies that each installment has to top the previous installment to draw fans to the movie. Stunts have to get bigger, crashes more brutal and less and less of the laws of physics apply. Coming out of Furious Seven I felt like I’d just come out of an installment of the Matrix meets the Transporter. We’ve come a long way from the quarter mile races in the streets of LA in the first movie.
Before I went to see the movie, I sat down to think about who of the core family was left and how many of the extended family. The answer was, not a lot. Between character deaths and people not returning, the Fast family is getting really thin. Despite this, Fast 8 is already in talks. I predict a sequel just to see where they will take the franchise now that Paul is gone to set up new relationships and to see if audiences will respond well to those types of stories. They almost tripled the budget in ticket sales in America alone, so the money is there.
It was obvious that this particular movie was reworked as a tribute to Paul. There was a heavy emphasis on family, Brian choosing his family over bullets. The brotherhood between Vin and Paul was pretty clear and the ending monologue cinched that the two would always be brothers. It was a nice touch that moved me to tears. The friendship between them was very real and there is real hurt now that Paul is gone, but there was also a feeling of hope, of catharsis, a release in finishing the movie. For that alone, I’d recommend seeing it if you are a fan of the franchise. None of this says anything though about whether or not this is a good action movie.
The plot starts off slow, first we see the bad guy, then we check in on the Fast family to see how they’re doing. Then we meet the bad guy again when he promptly proves how bad he is, then he disappears again, draws Dom into the plot and the movie basically goes from there with a few pauses between beats to let the viewer catch their breath. Those pauses were certainly needed. Was the plot particularly inventive? No. Was it entertaining? Absolutely. There was only one thing that grabbed me by surprise in this movie but that may have just been due to the fact I didn’t watch trailers for it. And it wasn’t story related and it ended up devolving into something I could have predicted in my sleep, which was sad.
Remembering that these movies are supposed to be about driving. they worked some inventive (impossible by the laws of physics) ways of working that in while doing essentially a ‘spy’ thriller movie. Hey, at least we aren’t doing ‘crime’ anymore. Just one problem, no one tells the cops. So things got messy. They keep the plot cookie for inventiveness in working their main angle, the driving, and keeping things entertaining.
There were plenty of needless explosions. In fact, the first was within the first five minutes and the bad guy likes grenades. A good portion of the budget must have gone for pyrotechnics. So woot!
With Kurt Russell, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and the Rock in your movie, the fight scenes better be entertaining. There are all out brawls between the Rock and Jason Statham. (The Rock is too pumped due to Hercules and Statham likes to rely on grenade ex machina, but a brawl none the less.) There’s another all out brawl between Vin and Jason (Street ex machina.) Sadly, Kurt Russell didn’t get a fight scene outside of shooting some guns, but that wouldn’t have fit the character he was playing. The franchise seems to be finally admitting that its stars have training and are willing to use it. Paul gets two fights and Michelle fights Ronda Rousey. So, there is something of an equal opportunity slug fest.
Fast Five is when the girls started to take their own in this franchise from doing virtually nothing for 2 through 4. Fast 6 built on a good start and Furious Seven continues it. Everything from Mia encouraging Brian to come back to her from thousands of miles away and Letty’s gradual memory return and involvement in the final chase scenes. I was justifiably annoyed by Letty’s return in Fast 6. Seven doesn’t make me less annoyed but provides very important character motivations to explain what happened in Fast 6. I wish I had those explanations then. the only thing that annoyed me about the female portrayals in this movie was Ronda Rousey not acting. She had a bit part and needed to make the most of it. She was uncomfortable and it felt uncomfortable to watch.
As I said in the beginning of this review, the longer a franchise goes on, the more they feel they have to top themselves in one way or another to grab viewers. (For me this isn’t true, I’d rather have a consistent feeling universe with good stories set in it.) So the place where Furious Seven suffers the most is world building. We are teetering on the edge of believability. I want to believe that cars given enough momentum and acceleration can do what they did in the movie in real life. But things are getting out of hand. We’ve got too many crashes where are heroes should be dead and aren’t. In fact, they are walking out of them without injury. (One thing I did like about Fast 2, they showed that crashes involved injuries.) Cars are doing things they just can’t do. While Fast 4 reset the franchise for these whacky hijinks. It is time to rein it in and be James Bond, not the Matrix. So I’m going to eat half of a cookie.
Furious Seven starts slow but revs up into an entertaining ride with plenty of explosions and some good laughs. Obviously influenced by Paul Walker’s death, it is a good memorial to his life and film career, heavy in the influences of family and brotherhood. An equal opportunity slug fest with strong female characters, I look forward to see where they go next. Four and a half gingersnaps!