Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Furious 7 review

    This movie is a cartoon. I mean that in the nicest way possible.

    I enjoy cartoons and think they're quite entertaining but this fact should be understood by those who think the latest Fast and the Furious is going to be anything like the original. Given the last movie was about the team fighting a bunch of roadster terrorists, this isn't likely to be a problem as they've adjusted to the "serial escalation" that's been going on but fair warning this is a series which has long since abandoned its car porn heist-movie roots.

    The film can be summarized by the opening scene, really. There, the villainous Deckard (Jason Statham) is revealed to have personally killed two dozen police officers, SWAT, and military personnel in order to go visit his paralyzed brother. The hospital lobby looks like he destroyed it with Neo's powers and he gives a armored officer a grenade before kicking him away--a trick straight from Bugs Bunny's playbook.

    The movie is chock-full of ridiculously over-the-top action sequences like the Rock surviving a pin-point grenade explosion while smashing out a window onto a police car three-stories below with only a few minor injuries. There's also a sequence where the heroes drive a car through the windows of a skyscraper into another skyscraper and then into another. A further scene has them driving a car off a cliff and surviving because, well, they're the protagonists.

Jason Statham is able to fist-fight the Rock without difficulty. Yeah, I have a little difficulty believing that.
    Furious 7 is a movie which repeatedly drills home our heroes are invulnerable and physics defying, which I have a reasonably high tolerance for but this manages to blow it out of the water with. The fact series regular Han is killed in the opening minutes and the gloom of Paul Walker's real-life death hangs over the movie doesn't change this fact.

    Albeit, the latter causes some unintentionally uncomfortable moments like at Han's memorial, a character says, "I can't attend any more funerals." Paul Walker then says, "Just one more." He's referring to the villain but I couldn't help but grimace.

    Despite this, I enjoyed the movie.

    I enjoyed it a lot.

There are many-many power-walks in this movie. They're also all awesome.
    Furious 7 nicely exists in the middle of the road for, "Fun but stupid" movies. It's as close to Grand Theft Auto the movie as you're going to get, really. Kurt Russel makes a surprise appearance as a character named, "Mister Nobody" who employs our antiheroes to rescue a hacker from a terrorist PMC in the middle of their revenge story and I swear I was back in San Andreas, playing CJ.

    There's a lot of really fun moments in the movie, too, like a girl fight between UFC Champion Ronda Rousey versus Michelle Rodriguez. Now I have no doubt Ronda could beat Michelle every which way from Sunday but Michelle manages to sell Lemmy is able to stand up for herself in the resulting match. I also loved silly but awesome moments like parachuting cars as well as the Rock breaking his cast by flexing.

    There's a pretty decent amount of melodrama and character development too. Lemmy and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesal) struggling to recover their relationship before her amnesia. Likewise, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) is having difficulty assimilating to civilian life. Brian wants to be a good husband to his wife but he struggles with his addiction to danger. Neither of these plots are terribly believable but they're fun and give a cursory nod to the idea these people are more than paper cut-outs. I also like Han's replacement of Megan Ramsey (played by Game of Thrones alumni Nathalie Emmanuel).

This is a typical stunt in the movie.
    Jason Statham's character of Deckard is a hilarious but effective villain, more or less playing an invincible comic book villain who no one thinks just to shoot in the head. Djimon Hounsou's character of Mose Jakande also provides welcome aid to making us believe Jason can menace the entire group. Albeit, I have to wonder how a rogue PMC from the middle of nowhere can get access to state-of-the-art military hardware they can deploy in the middle of Los Angeles.

    My favorite characters in the movie are not the main group at all, instead being Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson/The Rock) and the aforementioned Mister Nobody. Both the Rock and Russel recognize what sort of movie they're in and gleefully chew the scenery as only veteran performers can. There's actually a moment where Mister Nobody puts on night-vision sunglasses in a fire-fight and starts executing people with Hong Kong action movie gunplay. It has to be seen to be believed.

Ronda Rousey's acting skills are limited but she just needs to stand there looking both badass and attractive, which she does well.
    The series trademark car porn is present as always with numerous chase sequences and a short nod to the roots of the films in street racing. The franchise has long since moved on to be as heist series and now Mission Impossible-style antics. Either way, they involve a lot of cars getting smashed up and blown up in exciting ways. Ironically, for a series which loves vehicles so much, they get destroyed a lot.

    For the male gaze, the movie is utterly loaded with female extras in various stages of undress. Frankly, it got a little embarrassing at times even if I was able to enjoy it for the most part. For the female members of the audience? Not as much pandering but my wife says there's still quite a few very attractive men.

    In conclusion, this is a fun-fun movie. It is the definition of a "good" example of the "turn off your brain at the door" film versus a bad. Paul Walker also gets a loving tribute at the end of the film which left me a little misty-eyed too. He may not have made an especially deep movie to end his career but he made an entertaining one and I hope he is able to take comfort in that fact in whatever undiscovered country he's found himself in.

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