Functional fun with an unexpected emotional finale!
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Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
What to Expect
Let’s first get this off our backs: we all knew Furious 7 would be an extremely stupid movie.
The latest installment is, after all, obviously a part of a major franchise that’s built itself up to form a tone for everyone to expect – well – nothing from. And while the franchise has been quite all over the place, the one respectable thing about the studios backing it has consistently been how it’s gotten out of its shell of being just a bunch of car-culture films.
Which both grew out of its own form and made the franchise too generic for its own good at the same time.
But here’s the twist: James Wan.
Known widely for his rather successful horror films, most of which (Insidious, The Conjuring) have founded solid franchises, this would probably be Wan’s second film out of the horror genre post the Kevin Bacon starrer Death Sentence, which was a good eight years ago. The question in the minds of the people, however, wouldn’t be if he can handle mainstream blockbuster type like Joss Whedon (The Avengers) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) finally broke into from their independent background. It rather is – and has been – if Wan would successfully be able to take over the metaphorical reins from Justin Lin, who’s been directing four films prior within the franchise back-to-back as of now, which have all been mega-successes.
Which wouldn’t exactly say much, mainly ’cause Lin’s execution of the films has been excruciatingly flat and mundane, what with the brilliantly filmed and executed action sequences not allowing the viewers to feel anything close to edge-of-the-seat. This is hopefully where Wan comes in, allowing for some hope on the franchise to get some emotional dynamism, what with his horror films luckily having excellently rounded characters and superior atmospheric filmmaking, masking the flaws, the redundancy et al.
Then again, it’s always easier to replicate than to spin through some new threads, isn’t it?
What’s it About?
Dom, Brian and his team are off living their lives, with Dom pursuing his attempts to allow Leticia to gain her memories back. But sometimes, sins of the past can never let go of you. And this time, they’ve come to haunt the “family” back through Deckard Shaw, the vengeful brother of Owen Shaw, who they heavily injured over the course of the events of the prior film.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It’s quite easy to buy into the contrivances and logical implausibilities simply because the movie pays tribute to one of it’s now passed actors – Paul Walker. Should one be extremely unbiased however, taking everything into consideration, you’ve got to admit that practically nothing in the film makes an iota of sense. Despite that rather unshakable bout of truth, however, the action set-pieces throughout the film are extremely well shot. Wan actually brings a rather ramped up edge-of-the-seat sentiment to each and every set-piece. Bringing in the additional weapon of terrific sound design, you’re treated to a fantastic experience within the bout of action, which most definitely includes the pulse pounding races and chases. The one particular action sequence I have a huge problem with, however, is a particular combat sequence between Diesel and Statham, which feels like a humorous rework of a sword-and-sandal fight a la 300, and, for most part, doesn’t even fit within the narrative.
The script rewrites are quite apparent, what with the very,very jarring convolutions within the plot. Add to that Jason Statham’s (The Transporter) failed big bad villain act and you’re done for. Statham randomly shows up sans logic or narrative heft, does his thing and wraps it up for the next action set piece, where he – and I kid you not – comes right at the second half of every sequence, only to mess things up a bit, which quite predictably almost always ends in the heroes of the movie winning every leveled battle at every step of the way. And don’t even get me started on the hilariously written character arc of Djimon Honsou.
Also, why would one cut off Dwayne Johnson (Hercules) for more than three-fourths of the film? He is most evidently an extremely winning addition to the franchise, adding up to the sturdy star-power and the high-voltage action by leaps and bounds.
But the great thing about this film, despite the rather obvious problems, is how Wan makes his characters more than just one-dimensional. Michelle Rodriguez has a rather choppy appearance in the first quarter of the film, but her character is given a surprising set of layers you wouldn’t expect otherwise. Wan collaborates with screenwriter Chris Morgan (47 Ronin) – a regular in the Fast & Furious franchise – to make all of the regulars a little more than just cool people fighting and winning. There’s a lot more you can see within which is bound to surprise.
The production design of the film is pretty toweringly ambitious, with the film moving from city to city ‘round different parts of the world to acquire a mysterious “God’s Eye” – including its rather resourceful creator. The film boasts of some very cool camerawork during its action set pieces, where a particular camera tilt a la The Raid: Redemption becomes unnervingly repetitive by the end of its extremely redundant usage. The cinematography, as usual, captures wide, spacious and dynamic frames, whether it is during chases or simply establishing shots. The soundtrack is quite alright, and so is the background score. It’s quite cool that some chases in the film are stripped off any potential score and work solely on the strong support the film’s sound design gives them. The edit is fine, but the issues become apparent during the hyperkinetic cuts made during combat sequences – a stylistic decision made by many an action movie maker these days, allowing for the loss of impact in total, if only to stuff in a larger audience base.
Makes you wonder about all that unwarranted hype now, doesn’t it?
Hold your horses though, ‘cause Wan, in collaboration with Morgan, executes an extreme high-point in the film’s finale, which pays a fitting tribute to Walker and his association with the film. This is a rather unexpected emotional twist through the franchise’s otherwise flat nature, making you justifiably feel that this is truly the last time you’d see him on screen. Ever.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Of the more earnest actors, you’ve got Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson who take the cake – the latter of who obviously has shockingly less screen-time for kickers. Paul Walker is great while his role lasts. Jordana Brewster is efficient. Michelle Rodriguez is extremely impressive in this one. Jason Statham and Djimon Honsou are as good as non-existent, but offer functional support. Kurt Russell is an entertaining watch, and truly looks like he’s having an extreme amount of fun just being around for kicks. Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey are great support with their respective appearances in the action set-pieces. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson do the exact same thing they’ve been doing in all their appearances over the franchise’s tenure. Everyone else is efficient.
If any of you have your expectations strictly in check for this one, it’s a film worth taking that one last ride toward (pun totally intended) just for the admittedly impressive big-screen experience. The film on its own is as flat as the others, despite Wan’s rather earnest attempts to bring in some emotional dynamics within the characters. Expect the last scene, howsoever you feel about the film or the franchise in general, to hit you like a ton of bricks anyway.
And for a franchise that’s run this long on autopilot, bringing out that emotion… that is something.
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