REVIEW: “Furious 7”

FURIOUSPOSTER

The evolution of the “Fast and Furious” franchise has been an intriguing thing to watch. It went from being a goofy street racing franchise that I easily dismissed to a huge scaled, amped up action series that I have enjoyed. It’s a franchise that banks on its silliness and absurdity but succeeds because it never takes itself too serious and it knows what it now wants to be. I can appreciate that. Part of the charm of what it has become revolves around how cinematically insane they can make things.

2011’s “Fast Five” was the turning point for me. The drastic change in formula was welcomed and that film still has some of the best action sequences of the last ten or so years. It was followed by the less satisfying but still entertaining “Fast and Furious 6”. Now we reach the seventh film because naturally there has to be another film, right? Unfortunately the path to bringing “Furious 7” to the big screen has been a tragic and complicated one. On November 30, 2013, halfway through filming “Furious 7”, Paul Walker was killed in a car accident while on Thanksgiving break. Understandably this threw the film’s likelihood in doubt. After the film was confirmed to be still on, script rewrites and cast changes caused a number of delays.

FURIOUS1

But now it has hit theaters and the question becomes can it sustain the crazy, fuel-injected fun that has won me over to the franchise? In a nutshell, yes. “Furious 7” hits every note that you would expect from this reinvented series. The characters are formulaic and cliche. The dialogue is sometimes silly and hokey. The action blows believability to smithereens. But (and this may sound nuts to some readers) those things are part of the weird charm that these films have. James Wan takes the directing reins from longtime helmer Justin Lin and he doesn’t make the mistake of tinkering too much with the formula. This is definitely ‘more of the same’ but for fans that’s a good thing.

The film begins by reintroducing us to the crew and giving us a quick rundown of where they are and what they have been up to. Dom (Vin Diesel) is working hard to help Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) with her amnesia. Brian (Walker) is struggling to put aside his love for ‘the ride’ for the white-picket fence, mini-van family life. It also addresses the killer mid-credits scene from the last film. As it turns out Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the older brother of the last film’s antagonist, is hot under the collar and seeking revenge on Dom, Brian, and their crew. After Shaw’s attacks get personal and deadly, Dom and company set out to get him.

The hunt for Shaw also pulls in Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who quickly feels the full force of Shaw’s resolve. Other familiar faces like Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris Bridges) show up and fill their established roles. Their automotive adventure takes them all over the world – The United States, London, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, and a host of other places. Say what you want about the series, but their recent use of locales is one of its real treats. It’s not simply that it has a global feel. The locations are beautifully shot and injected into the storyline.

FURIOUS2

The story itself is pretty simple and the structure is basically set around moving things from point A to point B. It’s nothing innovative or new when it comes to the storytelling. When it is focused on its main revenge-versus-revenge thread it hits on all cylinders. But there are some moving parts that don’t quite work as well. Kurt Russell shows up has a US shadow agent apparently with limitless government resources. He’s after the ultimate hacking tool called God’s Eye. A well-funded terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) is also after it for obvious nefarious purposes. The entire side plot isn’t particularly well presented or compelling. They do serve to fill-in necessary potential plot holes and to set the table for some of the better action sequences, but that’s about all they have to offer. There are also couple of weird, almost obligatory, diversions meant to reflect back to street racing roots of the franchise. Personally I wish they would get past that.

The performances are about what you would expect. They range from steady and serviceable to pretty shaky. This installment does try to inject more emotional weight than the previous films and that’s when the performances struggled the most. But ultimately they get the job done and with the exception of Ronda Rousey (who to be fair is just there for a glorified cameo) none are distractingly bad. And I have to say that despite the flimsiness of his character, it was a load of fun to watch Kurt Russell having a blast with what he was asked to do.

FURIOUS3

But let’s be honest and true, nobody goes to a “Fast and Furious” movie for the performances. It’s all about the cars and the action we can get a lot of both. You almost get the feeling that each movie wants to top the other one in terms of the craziness of the action sequences.  This one definitely takes things to a higher level and most of the sequences are pure adrenaline-fueled excitement. Even when they pull something totally absurd out of their hat, it works within these reality-defying scenarios. That being said, the big action finale was the weakest. It certainly has its moments but it’s too long and overthought. Ultimately I was ready for it to end.

The movie ends with the fitting tribute to Paul Walker and his character, something I was expecting. It’s done really well and that could be said for most of the movie. It’s not perfect and there are stumbles that keep it from being an action movie classic. But these movies have embraced this new direction and this installment stays loyal to that. If you didn’t like the last two films I would be shocked to hear that you like this one. It definitely does the same things. But if you are a fan of their new model, and you enjoy just sitting back and going with its wildness, I have no doubts that you will find some of that same entertainment in “Furious 7”.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Furious 7”

  1. Good review, Keith! I read a recent post regarding this franchise and how Marvel Comics films could take a few pointers. They manage to survive and evolve and killing off characters and the swap between bad guy to good guy and vice verse has helped the Furious franchise endure. It was from Cinema Axis. Really smart. Anyway, they always have great chase scenes and at the core, theme of friendship/family give it an endearing quality as are their strong women nice to see on the screen.

    • Personally I don’t think they tell as good of a story as many of the Marvel movies. And the latest films usually stumble in the same places. But they do throw in twists and the fun crazy action is a blast. I also like what you say – strong women for sure but at the same time they always find other ways to exploit them. There is one scene in this film where that is painfully obvious.

      But they don’t mind bucking their formula which has given the series a whole new life. I completely applaud them for that.

  2. Excellent write-up man, I was expecting a lower score here bc….let’s face it: the F&F franchise is downright silly at times but it was a great seeing you give the film credit where credit is due. Re: the acting isn’t what we come to these things for, it’s the high-octane entertainment value and the scenery. I am still thinking this one over myself, and it’s gonna come down to either a 6 or a 7. I think Furious 7 was my favorite installment so far.

    • Thanks man. Silliness is the main course for these films but I find myself able to embrace their brand of it. Fast Five is still my favorite but I did like this one a bit more than the last.

  3. Saw it yesterday and had an absolute blast with it. The start was a bit shaky, but it quickly kicked into full gear. Cool to see Statham fighting both Johnson and Diesel and the stunts were crazy. Not having seen the trailers the jump with the car and the one with the bus were breathtaking.

    • The whole bus sequence may be my favorite. Absolute insanity and I loved it. I’ve always really liked Statham. Any time he’s throwing down I’m happy!

  4. I think I’d agree w/ you on the rating Keith. Btw the fifth film was the first film I saw of this franchise and I really enjoyed that one. Statham was pretty good here, he’s certainly more memorable than Luke Evans and he’s effortlessly bad ass!

    P.S. Happy Easter to you my friend, and hope you’ll take part in Five for the Fifth tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thanks Ruth! I’m so glad the series reinvented itself. It has turned into a fun franchise. I did think the first movie was pretty decent but after that it lost me. That changed with Fast Five. And you’re so right about Statham. I love that guy.

  5. Cool review mate. I haven’t given this franchise the time of day to be honest but I’m tempted to catch up as plenty of people have some good stuff to say about this one. Not sure I can really start with this one though!

    • Honestly you can start with Fast Five and be fine. It’s the one that grabbed me. The first movie isn’t bad but there are some rough ones between it and Five. Definitely worth catching up with. Intentionally wild and over-the-top fun.

  6. Great post Keith. Seeing all of them and liking them to various degrees, Fast Five is the hallmark of the series for me as well. But this one is better than 6 and the cast is just perfect with each other. I’d love for this to end here, and I’d still watch others when they come out, but money talks, especially $144 million on opening weekend.

    • I’m with you 100%. But you know another is on the way. As you say, money talks and Furious 7 has done a lot of talking at the box office.

  7. Pingback: Movie Review – Furious 7 |

  8. Pingback: Movie Review – Fate Of The Furious, The

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s