Furious 7 (2015) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Furious 7 (2015)

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Dom and the Furious crew are called back into action after suffering the loss of one of their own.  The villainous Deckard Shaw begins hunting Dom's crew one by one for revenge after the events of Fast & Furious 6.  James Wan makes his franchise-debut as director with a screenplay written by Chris Morgan and stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Michelle Rodriguez.  Ryan and his friend Ben watched the first four films (Part I and Part II) in preparation for Ryan watching and reviewing Fast Five.  Andrew previously reviewed Fast & Furious 6.

Same old paint jobThe Fast and Furious franchise, no matter what naming scheme each installment comes up with, has impressed me since its inception.   Vin Diesel and company have made a diverse and fun universe where cynicism is reserved for the bad guys and cars do things no one would dream of attempting.  Furious 7, the first with director James Wan who takes over after Justin Lin’s four film streak, supplies the usual.  We’ve got one-liners, cars flying through the air, and enough exotic locations to rival James Bond.

On that metric, Furious 7 is a success, but I felt a strong disconnect I didn’t feel with the other entry’s (save the dull fourth installment).  Some part of that is unavoidable, as the tragic death of Paul Walker left the series with less heart than when it started.  But other parts throw the future of the franchise into question.  I think of the way Dwayne Johnson barely seems to be interacting with the rest of the crew, or the way Wan’s camera lingers just a bit longer on the barely clothed car beauties than usual, or a touch extra style making the action confusing when the plot is anything but.

The question I come to when Furious 7’s credits rolled is – just because the franchise can continue, should it?  True, there’s enough good spots in Furious 7 to please the diehards, but after the escalating craziness of the earlier chapters the reduced diversity of this one make the finished product feel less satisfying.

Wan has become a fantastic horror director, but he's an awkward fit for the Furious franchise.

Wan has become a fantastic horror director, but he's an awkward fit for the Furious franchise.

It’s possible that the limits of the Fast and Furious crazy action scenes were finally hit with Fast & Furious 6, when the team takes down an airplane.  Furious 7 starts that crazy but then lowers the intensity.  Wan leads off with a ridiculous stunt which involves parachuting cars, so when Dom (Diesel) is making the leap between two buildings with his car the shock value of seeing a car in free fall is gone.  Furious 7 ends on a low point for the series with the kind of generic big battle I’ve grown long-bored with in superhero movies.

The disappointing action setups are a structural issue which could have been addressed with rewrites, but the loss of Walker is more difficult.  Diesel shines in these moments with his best friend, and the way the film ends with the real glint in Diesel and Walker’s eyes is one of the heartfelt moments which made the series so wonderful for years.  But there’s still a disconnect in scenes where he’s not there, made more noticeable by the similar issues plaguing Johnson.  He was busy filming Hercules and wasn’t able to interact with the crew as much.  So his scenes become more isolated, and as cool as it is seeing Johnson with a chain gun, him standing alone or, worse, injured in bed removes more of the family vibe.

Then there’s Wan’s approach and, in an odd twist, he would have been more appropriate a choice for Fast & Furious 6 than Furious 7.  His career in horror is definitely noticeable throughout Furious 7, as the camera twists and contorts along with the action more than it used to, exaggerating shapes and figures in ways which are no longer mythic but more like an intense dream.  This makes a lot of the action scenes more difficult to follow than before, and since Furious 7 is not dealing with Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) shifting alliance and amnesia as in Fast & Furious 6, the stylish decision don’t even make much sense in storytelling context.

Walker brought the same dignity and credibility to the Furious franchise, and does so in his final outing.

Walker brought surprising dignity and heart to the Furious franchise, and does so in his final outing.

Speaking of Rodriguez, she and newcomer Ronda Rousey have a fight scene which disappoints.  Instead of a bare-knuckle street brawl they jump and twist around a posh party while Wan’s camera returns downstairs to luxuriate on the various women dancers.  Rodriguez and Rousey are made part of a gendered spectacle in this comparison, and it pales when placed next to the amazing fight between Rodriguez and Gina Carano in Fast & Furious 6.  This isn’t an isolated issue though, and new character Ramsey played by Nathalie Emmanuel is focused on more for how she looks in a bikini than what she brings to the team.

There’s one ray of hope in Furious 7 which shows Wan can still tap into what makes the franchise great.  The team makes a detour in Abu Dhabi where they are surrounded by Arabs welding and crafting cars like in the many other countries they’ve visited.  Despite the language barrier everyone communicates the same in sweat and steel, and Ali Fazal makes such a strong and nervy impression I hoped he would be in the film more.

I still enjoyed myself throughout large chunks of Furious 7, and fans new and old will still find a lot to like.  But the cumulative effect from Wan’s direction and the noticeable absence of Walker and Johnson, make it hard to recommend.  There’s hope the eighth installment will return to the multicultural heart which make the sixth one of the best movies of 2013, but I now have doubts.

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Tail - Furious 7Furious 7 (2015)

Directed by James Wan.
Screenplay written by Chris Morgan.
Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Michelle Rodriguez.

Posted by Andrew

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