Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review: 'Furious 7', Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and More


Some people like to snub the Fast and Furious franchise, calling it fun, but not good. And honestly, it's either one or the other, never both. If critics are to begrudgingly admit that this franchise is actually good, then they should stand up behind that opinion. Whether one has an affinity for the series or not, it's hard to deny the reasons behind its popularity. Their formula is simple: fantastic and fun action sequences, simple plot, tight group of characters. And Furious 7 is continuing in that vein, a worthy follow-up to 2013's Fast and Furious 6 and a highly respectable send off to the late Paul Walker.

The Furious gang is back together. The film takes place a while after the last one, but right after Jason Statham is revealed to have killed Han (Sung Kang). Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) still can't remember her past and struggles with that notion, and Brian (Paul Walker) is struggling as he settles into family life and normalcy with Mia (Jordana Brewster) and their son.

When Deckard Shaw (Statham) begins a personal attack on cops Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Elena (Elsa Patakay), and on the family of racers in revenge for killing his brother Owen (Luke Evans) in the last film, Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian, Letty, Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) band together to take him down. But not before they're summoned by a mysterious man who claims knows Hobbs (Kurt Russell) to retrieve a device that can track anyone, aptly called "god's eye," from bad guy Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) and rescue his hacker captive, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

The Fast and Furious franchise is one that keeps getting better with time. The filmmakers aren't afraid to get ridiculous with their action sequences, nor do they try to make any of the laws of physics make any sense. This results in a film that is fun and ambitious, trying to best itself at every turn. And outside of being one of the best action franchises in cinema, the series has the added advantage of having a uniquely diverse cast who thankfully isn't overly stereotyped. The franchise has expanded, adding in new characters, leaving behind some, using the racing team (or family, as they like being referred to) for special operations, however the films always lead back to the streets and to cars.

The films, regardless of how big they've gotten, haven't forgotten their roots. They use a lot of callbacks to past films in the newest installment, but never repeat the exact same methods of telling the story. And the story is always simple enough. There isn't a bunch of secret jargon being thrown around that no one understands, and the plot is never too convoluted. Even the Middle East, usually the subject of some terrorist activity, isn't portrayed in a "bad guys" light. Newcomers Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel are fantastic editions to the franchise give the film a bit more edge.

Furious 7 has an advantage in that it recognizes itself as an entertainment-fueled film and plays off of this fact exceptionally. It doesn't worry about the logistics, just what fits within the scope of the movie itself. It enjoys itself and this makes the audience also enjoy it. The chase sequences, the hand to hand fights, the occasionally cheesy dialogue, and the car stunts are all part of the package and make for an exhilarating high-octane-fueled adventure.

James Wan, taking over as director of the series for the first time from long-time franchise director Justin Lin, had a lot of pressure riding on his shoulders. He had to make the movie bigger and better than the last few and had to figure out a way to figure in the late Paul Walker after his untimely death in late 2013. With the help of CGI and the use of Walker's brothers as stand-ins, Wan accomplishes retaining the actor's character in the film, even though it's clear when the actor isn't present in certain scenes that have a far away shot or are filmed using several different angles to hide his absence. Furious 7 successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do and respectfully and beautifully pays tribute to Paul Walker in the best way possible. An action film that is definitely worth the watch and great addition to the popular franchise.


Release Date: April 3, 2015 | Director: James Wan | Screenwriter: Chris Morgan | Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Patakay, John Brotherton | Genre: Action | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content, and brief strong language

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