Monday, April 13, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7

Image courtesy of Forbes
Furious 7 is but only one of the movies I had been waiting eagerly to watch this year. Having seen every previous installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise, I was excited for Furious 7, especially with how it was supposed to tie in with the third entry of the franchise, Tokyo Drift. However, with Paul Walker's unfortunate passing, Furious 7 was going to be delayed in order to give the cast and crew time to mourn, as well as figure out a way to give Paul a proper send off. With its release date pushed back a year, Furious 7 finally came out last week, and I decided to go watch it with some friends last week. Does this latest entry live up to the excitement promised by its predecessors?

Author's note: This review of Furious 7 will contain some spoilers of the latest entry into the Fast and Furious franchise, as well as some possible spoilers of previous entries. If you have not seen Fast 7 or any of the previous films, and dislike having movies spoiled, click out now and enjoy one of our many other articles. 


Furious 7 continues the story line from Fast and Furious 6, but is also supposed to take place during and after the third movie in the franchise, Tokyo Drift. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, but have seen Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious 6, you will recall the scene in which Han (played by Sung Kang) is killed trying to escape from the Yakuza in Tokyo Drift. After Han's car is flipped over, it suddenly explodes, killing Han. Fast and Furious 6 builds on this scene by showing Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) walking away from the explosion while introducing himself to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) over the phone. Shaw's murdering of Han and his promise to kill the rest of Dominic's crew for putting his younger brother in the hospital (the villain of Fast and Furious 6), sets the primary conflict for Furious 7.

The Good

Image courtesy of Lost in Reviews
As I had mentioned in my review of Fast and Furious 6, the franchise as a whole moves further and further away from the street racing scene that it was built on in the first three films, going for more of a heist movie feel. Since the last three films were all geared more towards this different direction, I thought I would have been tired of it by now. If there is one word I could use to describe this latest entry into the Fast and Furious franchise, it would be this: ridiculous. I do mean that in the best way possible though. The stunts and numerous chase sequences seem to get more and more outrageous as the franchise ages. It is these outrageous stunts that keep the chase scenes refreshing. The big highlight chase scene involves Dominic and crew being dropped out of an airplane, in cars, over a highway, where they then parachute on to the highway to ambush a convoy. It is utterly absurd and seems totally impractical, but is just so much fun to watch that I stopped caring.

Image courtesy of MotorAuthority
With the crew now back in Los Angeles, some familiar faces and locations show up in Furious 7 as sort of a nostalgia kick back to the first movie. Hector (Noel Gugliemi), who is shown collecting bets during the first major street race scene in the first movie, makes a cameo appearance in the "Race Wars" scene in Furious 7. The final chase and fight scene between Toretto and Shaw is also said to take place in the parking garage where Dominic hides his RX-7 and is picked up by Brian (Paul Walker) in the first film. Most people who got into the franchise mid way are going to miss the tiny things like this, but for those of us who have watched every single film to date, it is a lot of fun seeing these little things pop up from a movie that was made 14 years ago.

Image courtesy of The New Yorker
I have been told by a friend that  Dwayne Johnson's character, Luke Hobbs, was originally supposed to spend most of the film in a coma after being attacked by Deckard Shaw in an effort to get info about Toretto and his family. However, due to Paul Walker's passing and that many of his scenes were not yet completed, the writers re-wrote Hobbs into a more active role. Rather than being in a coma, Hobbs would just be injured and recovering in a Los Angeles area hospital, where he could then literally flex out of his casts, gear up, and assist Toretto and his family. While it is unfortunate it took Paul Walker's tragic passing for the writers to give Johnson a more active role in the film, I was glad that it eventually worked out. If Johnson's character were to just remain in a coma throughout the film, we would not have gotten such gems as Johnson's Hobbs driving an ambulance off a bridge to crush a drone, and then salvaging its mini-gun to shoot at the bad guys in an assault chopper.

The Bad

Image courtesy of Geek Tyrant
Despite it being quite enjoyable, I felt like Furious 7 was a film of many missed opportunities. When I had initially heard that Lucas Black would be reprising his role as Sean Boswell from Tokyo Drift, I thought that he would be welcomed into Toretto's family, just as Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) were welcomed into the family in Fast 5. Instead, Lucas Black's appearance in the film amounted to a three minute cameo of him handing off the remainder of Han's possessions to Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto. Toretto knew Boswell thought of Han as family, so why did he not offer Boswell the opportunity to get back at Shaw? Not only was Lucas Black's appearance wasted, they did not even show the race between Boswell and Toretto that was implied to have happened at the end of Tokyo Drift. Instead, all we get is Boswell proclaiming, "I didn't think American muscle could drift" in that strong southern drawl.

Speaking of wasted appearances, Jordana Brewster's Mia Toretto seems to have been relegated to bit character since Fast and Furious 6. I get that she is now a mother, and that her primary concern should be her and Brian's son, but even though she was pregnant in Fast 5, she still played a major role in coordinating the crew's movements in Rio. Now, she seems to just be a reminder that she and Brian have a son and that Brian needs to make sure that both himself and her brother come back alive.

 Image courtesy of Ace Showbiz
And since when did everyone suddenly know martial arts? There is a scene where Tej takes down a guard with some pretty impressive moves...moves he did not seem to have in any of the previous films. Of course, there is also the scene where Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) goes up against MMA bantam weight champ, Ronda Rousey. Are we supposed to believe that when she woke up from her coma in the previous film, she also miraculously picked up fighting skills too, a la The Matrix? When we first see Brian get into fist fights in the first two films, it is pretty obvious that he never had any previous combat training as his fighting is sloppy at best. Even in the later movies, we just kind of see Brian wildly throwing punches at people in hopes of knocking them out. But in Furious 7, he suddenly posses the skills to go toe-to-toe with famed Thai martial artist and actor Tony Jaa. Really? The Rock and Jason Statham going at it? That, at least, I can believe.

Oh, and did I mention how unnecessary Iggy Azalea's appearance in the film was? I forgot? Ok. Iggy Azalea's appearance in the film was completely unnecessary.

Summary

For his first foray into the Fast and Furious franchise, James Wan did an admirable job. Though completely ridiculous at times, Furious 7 was still great fun to watch. As mentioned, there are some flaws with the movie, mostly with just wasted character opportunities, but there is always future entries in the franchise to build on those characters. After all, the eighth movie is supposedly already in the works.

I think most importantly though, the film really did feel like a proper send off for Paul Walker's character, Brian O'Connor, and for Walker himself. The final scene of the movie was a touching tribute to Walker, showing his growth through the franchise from the first film all the way to through the sixth film. Walker's appearance in the future installments of the franchise will be greatly missed and does leave one wondering what possible direction the franchise will take with one of its principal cast members gone.

Only time will tell.