Furious 7 - Review

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Furious 7 - Review

If you want to track changing trends in movies, watch how long standing franchises change over time. For example, a weekend is all it would take to watch The Fast and the Furious movies morph from Point Break with cars into the meathead Avengers. In 2011, Fast Five reinvigorated the franchise. It was easy to dismiss them at first as shallow, derivate, and ultimately forgettable car fantasies. But they eventually found the right formula to make it fun too.  Suddenly a change in direction and a haphazard decade of continuity combined into the laughs and adrenaline you want in a movie like this with belief suspended exactly where it needed to be. Melodrama was thrown in the backseat.

The magic didn’t last. Furious 6 was a competent, but pale imitator of its processor that almost laughably asks the audience to remember movies that weren’t Fast Five. Furious 7 knows where its bread is buttered. But it doesn’t have that special sauce that would put it up there with the series’ one true genre staple.

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You want to see the Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham duke it out? Done! Do you want so see Jason Statham and Vin Diesel duke it out with wrenches on an collapsing parking garage in a battle that will inevitably get uploaded to youtube as a lightsaber fight? Also done! Michelle Rodriguez against another UFC fighter? Triple Done! There are more than a few action sequences here that will push even the most lax viewer’s “Yeah right” buttons.  But it is never overwhelming or boring.  Although I have to admit: I broke into unintentional laugher when open warfare on the streets of Los Angeles complete with drones and gun helicopters went on forever with no intervention.

The diverse crop of heroes is vital to keeping things engaging. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris remain an apt comic pair and the most dynamic characters in the film matched only by Dwayne Johnson and Kurt Russell who get to ham it up as Nick Fury types, and it Russell's case Fury crossed a bit with the emigmatic Cigaratee Smoking Man from X-Files.  Clearly a series that began with street racers heisting DVD players needs such characters. Vin Diesel’s gravely avatar of stoic machismo is only ever entertaining if there is something to beat up. Missandei from Game of Thrones is a blank new addition to the cast who mostly exists because there needed to be a second act Mcguffin, and shots of her emerging from the ocean in a bikini in the trailers. That is ontop of the gyrating hordes of bikini clad extras on display in both the opulent Abu Dhabi party sequence and whenever there is about to be a street race.

The obvious elephant in the room here is Paul Walker. While the actor passed while the film was still in development the consequences on that for the production are nearly invisible.  This may have come at the cost of some character development (people talk around and about Walker’s character an awful lot while not talking to him) and his final scene is awfully final when you consider that in universe nothing game changing has even happened. They’re all going to see him at the family BBQ next week. We may not know exactly what they had to work with before it came down to rewriting the script and digitally overlaying Paul Walker’s face on his brothers. But it is a testament to the production’s skill, craft, and tact that it is pretty easy to believe that the movie may have been conceived more or less just like it this if Walker was there for the finish line.