Review: Furious 7
PLOT: Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and the rest of their crew are forced into international intrigue when they find themselves targeted by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) the deadly brother of a former enemy. In order to find Shaw before he can eliminate them, Dom cuts a deal with a special agent (Kurt Russell) to recover a piece of spy software that's fallen into the hands of a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and his gang of mercenaries. All the while, Shaw is hot on their tail.
REVIEW: One last ride yeah right! Given the rapturous response FURIOUS 7 got at the advance screening I attended, this will likely be the franchise's biggest box-office hit to date, so you can bet things will stay FAST & FURIOUS for years to come, Heck, why not? One has to admire how they've managed to turn what started as a b-level POINT BREAK knockoff into an insanely profitable film franchise that manages the impossible the movies actually get better and better.
While Justin Lin sat this one out, director James Wan directing his first tent-pole action movie does a yeoman's job, giving the series continuity while also jacking up the action quotient to truly epic levels (not that the last few were lacking). Right from the opening scene, depicting Jason Statham doing to a hospital what Arnold Schwarzenegger did to a police station in THE TERMINATOR, it's clear that Wan and company are going to be throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. One can't argue that they've stumbled upon a winning formula that could hypothetically go on forever, with gorgeous scenery, sexy cars and an even sexier cast making sure absolutely nothing's been left out of FURIOUS 7. All the boxes are checked.
But why does cartoonish-ness work for FURIOUS 7 but not for something like TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION? The simple answer is that even at their worst, the saga always had heart. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese and Ludacris really do feel like a big-screen family at this point, and it's the fact that the characters genuinely care about each other and that the actors have such strong chemistry that keeps this from being simple parody. It's tough to watch this and not think about what happened to Paul Walker, but Wan and his gang do a seamless job of making sure Walker's a constant presence throughout. They used CGI and body doubles, but it's really difficult to guess which scenes are genuinely Walker and which scenes are not. The series is going to suffer from his absence, although his send-off is particularly well done.
Still, Walker's only one piece of the puzzle, and one thing that's very effective is how Diesel and Rodriguez's love story is beefed up this time around. While her resurrection was maybe a little tough to swallow, in the end they made the right choice as her and Diesel play so well off each other. The same goes for Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, with the latter especially working as a kind of audience surrogate, constantly remarking on how crazy things are getting and trying to get out of the crew's riskier gambits which include an insane plot to parachute in their cars from a plane right smack dab into the middle of a car chase. In any other movie this would have been too much...
The new additions are also pretty perfect, with Statham faring better here than he has in a long time as the main baddie. He's got tons of great action scenes, including a great throw-down with Dwayne Johnson early on (who is sadly sidelined for much of the film although he's awesome when he's on-screen). ONG BAK's Tony Jaa also gets two great fights with Walker, including a really memorable one that's part of an absolutely insane truck chase that ends with Walker's character performing one of the series most memorable stunts. Djimon Hounsou takes a bit of a back seat to Statham, but serves his purpose well, while Ronda Rousey has a solid fight with Rodriguez. On the hero side, Kurt Russell owns every scene than he's in, and even gets a quick Carpenter-esque piece of action, while Nathalie Emmanuel (of GAME OF THRONES) plays the silver screen's most photogenic hacker since Chris Hemsworth in BLACKHAT (complete with a much appreciated bikini scene).
Clearly, Universal knows they have a mega-hit on their hands, with no expense being spared. There's even an extended MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-style set piece in Abu Dhabi that looks like it cost more than the first three films in the franchise put together. Again though, this is one of the few times I'd say that a franchise has actually gotten better the bigger its gotten. As long as you go in with the right attitude, this is a movie that's all but impossible not to have an absolute blast with.
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