April 19, 2015
I’m not sure what I can say about Furious 7 that hasn’t already been said by various filmgoers about its preceding films. It’s a stupid movie and it’s very well aware that it’s a stupid movie. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of people, myself included, can enjoy a good, albeit stupid, action movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the first few Fast and Furious movies (Even Tokyo Drift, in which I’m apparently in the minority). I realize it would be unfair to judge a movie for something it doesn’t claim to be, so rest assured that my expectations aren’t unrealistic when I call Furious 7 thoroughly mediocre, and not just due to Iggy Azalea’s cameo (Consider it a warning, not a spoiler).
Before going into my criticisms of the film, I’d like to point out some of the few things I actually liked, the first and foremost being Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s appearance. I don’t know if it’s due to his experience in professional wrestling or what, but it is his acting that is most enjoyable in these over-the-top films. In a world of quickly aging action stars, The Rock is a harbinger of hope for the continuance of the charismatic, tough, muscle-strapped good guy. A few of his lines were reminiscent of his trademark long-winded insults that he was known for during his wrestling days and, sadly, they were probably some of the most entertaining dialogue in the entire film. Towards the end of the movie, well after I had grown bored of Vin Diesel walking out of multiple car crashes unscathed, The Rock had a scene where he flexed himself out of a full body cast and then proceeded to attack a helicopter with a mini-gun he ripped off the back of an armored truck. Had Maximus Desimus Meridius inquired at that moment, I would have had to admit that I was entertained. In this cinematic universe of boring, bland archetypical versions of action badasses, he was the only badass I found myself rooting for.
The only other redeeming part of the movie was the final scene in which the Furious crew said their farewells to Paul Walker’s character. Paul Walker died in an unfortunate car accident in late 2013, before finishing all his scenes for the movie and many people, including myself, were curious as to how the movie franchise was going to handle his character’s fate. After all he was one of the two main protagonists of the franchise, along with Vin Diesel, and fans expected (or hoped) for an appropriate send-off. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, but I will say that this scene had the best and most heartfelt writing of the movie. This scene tugged at the heartstrings of nostalgic fans of the franchise and the feelings expressed by the characters clearly stemmed from the actors’ genuine expressions of love for Walker. The grief in their words is palpable. It wasn’t what I expected but it was classy and respectful and as the only authentic scene in an otherwise outlandishly simulated film, I was fully satisfied with how it ended, and not just because the movie itself had finally ended.
Now moving on to my overall thoughts about the film itself, consider this your spoiler warning. You know the parodies of action movies that play in the background of other films and tv shows? The random jumbled collage of explosions, guns and thick-necked meatheads with one line quips jumping out of vehicles? The over-simplified strawman of violent movies that parents declare as harmful to children? I’m convinced that the producers of Furious 7 aimed to make a full-length movie that could admirably serve any of these purposes. With a total disregard of holding on to even the smallest degree of credibility, Furious 7 launches at the audience with the subtlety and tact of a kamikaze pilot. Within minutes the audience witnesses the villain—played by Jason Statham—nonchalantly walking away from a burning building shortly after blowing up a guy with a grenade. Grenades seem to be Statham’s preferred weapon throughout the movie, an apt choice to symbolize the volatile and destructive nature of the movie as a whole. Now some so-called movie fans may say that gratuitous action can only be good as long as it’s accompanied with good plot and likable characters; Furious 7 responds with an in-your-face “GO TO HECK!” (It’s PG-13). When the advertisers say “non-stop action,” that’s exactly what they mean. It honestly feels like the film will never end. Two and a half hours of bald, tough, buff good guys talking shit to bald, tough, buff bad guys and chasing each other around in high-end luxury vehicles. Interspersed with the obligatory dubstep montage of scantily-clad models and a wholly incomprehensible plot, I felt like I was watching one of Tom Cruise’s wet dreams.
Now I admit I hadn’t watched the 4th, 5th or 6th installments of the Fast and the Furious franchise, so (though I sincerely doubt it) that may account for some of my confusion regarding the story. Apparently in one of the prior films, Michelle Rodriguez’s character survived an accident, which caused her to suffer amnesia, and wiped all her memories of her and Vin Diesel’s romance. While I already dislike romantic subplots shoehorned into movies, I dislike them even further when they steal plot developments directly from daytime soap operas. Between the mindless nonstop action, amnesic romance and Brian (Paul Walker)’s inner conflict between domestic life and reckless, homicidal life, one would think it’d be enough to keep my attention, but I was literally dozing off throughout the last half hour or so. There was no need for a film with as little to say as Furious 7 to go on for as long as it did.
Furious 7 lacks a certain charm that early Fast and Furious installments had in excess. While they were never deeply profound or philosophical, they had a light-hearted tone and were carried by cool car chases and funny dialogue. Since then, like most long lived movie franchises, it seems to have lost its way and now simply seems like an easy film made for an easy cash grab. As I said before, it’s perfectly fine if stupid movies are aware of themselves and don’t try to be anything more than stupid movies. However, I don’t feel like anyone involved in Furious 7 tried much at all, period. None of the characters have the same likability they had in earlier films and now seem more like over-dramatized versions of themselves. The plot and writing are as insignificant as they can be in a movie and it really only serves as a medium to show off special effects and the nude female form. I’m of the opinion that brand recognition alone has netted this movie over $800 million at the box office. Despite the financial accomplishments however, I give it a resounding 2 out of 5 explosions and even with that I feel like I’m being generous. I can only hope they actually put some effort into the 8th installment, though I’ll probably like it more just because I won’t pay to see it.
Alternate Movie Reccomendation: Kingsman: The Secret Service, released earlier this year, is an excellent alternative in the stupid action movie genre. The fight choreography and cinematography used in Kingsman is innovative and very refreshing when compared to the overdone “too fast to see, jerky camera motion” used in most films (Furious 7 included). I can only hope it becomes the standard for future action films. Samuel L. Jackson’s and Colin Firth’s performances steal the show and are massively entertaining and it even contains a semblance of socio-economic commentary about the disparity between the classes. That film went right everywhere Furious 7 went wrong.