Thursday, April 9, 2015

'Furious 7' review

Critics, bloggers and fans have written pieces about the evolution of the Fast and Furious franchise, while others have written about the long production road for Furious 7 after star Paul Walker's tragic death. To avoid being redundant and repetitive, I'll just say that what the franchise has been able to do is admirable. They took a street racing series, jumped several speed bumps and created the most consistently entertaining and dumb-founding action series in Hollywood. Furious 7 is another spectacular entry into the series and a very, very entertaining film that also manages to be the perfect ending for Paul Walker's film career. This movie is big, bold and ridiculous, but in the end, the action gives way for a simple finale that is absolutely perfect.


Many have stated that the plot of Furious 7 is convoluted and unimportant, which is true. However, there is still a story to all the madness and James Wan does his best to juggle lots of balls but keep it fairly straight-forward. Furious 7 takes place directly after Furious 6 and right in the middle of Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and their other crew members are back in Los Angles after taking down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). But now, Shaw's brother, Deckard (Jason Statham), is on the hunt for members of Dom's crew. He takes out Han (Sung Kang) first (which was teased in the end of Furious 6) before destroying the family's house in Los Angeles, nearly killing Brian, his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) and their son.

If there's one lesson that the Fast and Furious villains must learn, it's that you don't mess with family. Dom sets out on a vendetta to find Deckard Shaw and take him out. To do that, he and his crew begin working for Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), a shady government agent on the hunt for an all-powerful surveillance device that can find anybody in the world, known as the God's Eye. The device is currently in the hands of a group of powerful terrorists (led by Djimon Hounsou) and they are also holding the device's creator, a beautiful hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), hostage. Through a series of high speed chases and globe-trotting adventures, the crew fights their way back to Shaw on the streets that they know best: Los Angeles.

I'm not going to pretend that the plot of this film isn't dumb and convoluted. It totally is. There's way too much stuff going on in this movie and it makes for a frenzied and sometimes confusing experience. I put part of the blame on the screenwriters and part of it on the fact that director James Wan had to create a cohesive film out of scenes and incomplete story threads. From various reports I've read, Paul Walker completed anywhere between 50 and 75% of his scenes and Wan had to work to rework the story and find a way to end the film appropriately. When you really look at what Wan had to do, he did an admirable job.

For Walker's scenes, the filmmakers employed a group of visual effects wizards to digitally attach Paul's face onto the body of his brothers, Cody and Caleb Walker. And while it certainly wasn't an ideal solution, it works mostly seamlessly. However, there were definitely times where I was clearly able to tell that it was a digital Paul and not actually him. The most notable examples are the Abu Dhabi scenes and the film's final sequence. The technology isn't always perfect, but I thought that ultimately, it was an effective way to honor Paul and simultaneously complete the film.

From what I understand, this film was going to go in one direction, but based on what Walker had completed, Wan and his team had to retool a lot of the story elements for the sake of cohesion and to minimize the amount of digital effects that they needed for Walker. This restructuring gives the film a choppy feel and I could definitely say that this feels like a film made up of five distinct parts: the setup, the mountain chase, the Abu Dhabi scenes, the Los Angeles street war and the Paul Walker send-off. There's not much of a flow to it all and that makes Furious 7 the most awkward installment in the series since its rejuvenation with Fast Five.

Despite its mistakes, Furious 7 is still one ridiculously entertaining film. There's still no franchise in Hollywood that can dream up engaging, amazing and absurd action sequences like The Fast and Furious series. Unlike other properties that settle for massive city destruction scenes and other CGI nonsense, this franchise constantly ups the ante. From the Rio bank heist in Fast Five to the endless runway of Fast and Furious 6, this series always delivers the "Wow" factor.

In Furious 7, there are three principle action scenes but the first one is certainly the most stunning. It's a mountainside chase through a European country and it goes on for nearly a half hour. The stunts are incredible and it maintains spectacular momentum. The Abu Dhabi scenes are incredibly fun as well and the Los Angeles war is an overlong and hilariously insane climax, in which Dwayne Johnson crashes an ambulance into a drone before stepping out with a Gatling gun and shooting down a helicopter. Overall, if you're heading to Furious 7 for the action, you won't be disappointed.

The other aspect that fans are likely to be most interested in is the film's conclusion and most importantly, how is Paul Walker sent out of the franchise? I'm glad to report that the ending of this film is both sad and beautiful, a perfect send-off for the late actor. I won't spoil it here for those who aren't already aware of the ending, but whoever came up with it deserves an award. It's unbelievably good.

Furious 7 is about what you'd expect from this franchise, with just an added bit of poignancy thanks to the Walker coda. It's about as good as Fast Five but not as ludicrously fun as Furious 6, yet it'll entertain action fans all the same. The acting isn't great and the plot is scattered, but the Fast and Furious franchise maintains its Hollywood title as the place to go when you want to see silly one-liners spouted by oversized action stars, all accompanied by bullets and explosions. Furious 7 delivers the goods and more.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.8/10)


Image Credits: Forbes, The New Yorker, Comic Book, Huffington Post, Screen Rant

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