Friday, April 3, 2015

Movie Review #238: "Furious 7" (2015)

Movie"Furious 7"
Ticket Price: $12.50
Director: James Wan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes
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Dominic (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), and the rest of their crew are happy enjoying their lives, now fully pardoned. Brian is starting to settle into family life with Mia (Jordana Brewster), while Dominic tries to reconnect with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and help her remember their life together. Their care free lives are about to come crashing down when Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother to Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who was left disfigured in the hospital after being thwarted by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Dom and his gang, comes looking for them. Deckard is a former special forces black ops agent who plans to kill them all, like he did with Han (Sung Kang) in Tokyo. American Shadow ops agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) contacts Dom and strikes a deal to help them find Shaw if they locate and retrieve a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who created a spy technology known as the God's Eye. 

"Furious 7" sort of reminds us of the song "Push It to the Limit" because that's all it does and really, when it comes down to it, that's all it wants to do. We feel like this movie, after 6 others, now knows its mission is solely to make people want to kick up their heels and have a good time, maybe even laugh a little at its outrageous-ness and its one-liners. "Furious 7" pushes as hard as it can until you think it can't push anymore, and then it does something even more ridiculous like making its main characters jump between 3 huge buildings in Abu Dhabi in an expensive car. Yes, you read that right, 3 buildings. Not 1, not 2, but 3! The car plows right through glass windows and steel beams, physics be damned. If you have seen any of the other, more recent films in the Fast and Furious franchise and thought you needed to suspend your disbelief then, baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

First of all, yes, we enjoyed the hell out of this movie for precisely what it was, not because of any extraneous or outside circumstances, but because we know how to have a good time at the cinema, and this provided us with 2 hours and 10 minutes of eyes wide open, jaw to the floor action, many hilarious moments, and even a teeny tiny bit of suspense. However, there is a lot going on in this particular movie. It's kind of all over the place and has a lot of moving parts. You have Deckard Shaw, played by another movie badass in Jason Statham, who is out for revenge for what was done to his brother Owen Shaw in "Fast & Furious 6." Mr. Nobody, portrayed by series newcomer Kurt Russell, wants the God's Eye spy devise that, if it were real, would be the NSA's wet dream coming to fruition. This device gives its holder the ability to track any person on earth at any time, anywhere, by bouncing signals off of cell towers, cell phones and other electronic devices, security cameras and webcams, etc. There is also a mercenary group that wants God's Eye, too, led by another newcomer Djimon Hounsou, and Tony Jaa. Shaw and our trusty gang of street racers turned rogue operatives travel all over the world looking for one another, scouring the streets of London and Los Angeles, to the parking lots of Tokyo and the deserts of Abu Dhabi, but always coming back to L.A. Seriously, they go to L.A. like 4 times. All the while, Mia, along with her and Brian's son Jack, hide out in the Dominican Republic after a bomb delivered to their doorstep from Shaw blew their childhood home to smithereens. The group must retrieve the God's Eye program for Mr. Nobody, then use it to stop Shaw and the mercenary group, who have seemingly teamed up for the same cause in an "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" type of deal, all while saving hacker Ramsey, played by "Game of Thrones" actress Nathalie Emmanuel and working around the death of Paul Walker with CGI and a stand-in/stunt double in the form of his brother. WOW. That was quite a mouthful!

It's really crazy when you think about where our "heroes" came from to where they wound up. They started out as a group of truck heisting street racers who were foiled by the first truck driver to pull a gun on them, and ended up as the go-to super-group, rescue hostages from mercenaries while combating a Special Forces trained psychopath. It's probably best not to think about how this transition happened in the first place. Rather, we'd simply suspend our disbelief long enough to accept that it did happen and it kicked ass in the process. If you have ever watched a "Fast and Furious" movie, this suspension of disbelief became a must after a while. Cars fall out of planes, cars jump between buildings, there is an endless amount of urban and vehicular destruction, and it's all par for the course. We do love the addition of Jason Statham to this franchise, who is really the ultimate badass in this installment. They introduce him having taken out a whole team of whatever England's version of a SWAT team is single-handedly, all so he can talk to his brother, who survived "Fast & Furious 6" only to be laid up in a hospital bed. Statham is not the only new character introduced as Tony Jaa is brought in to play a mercenary named Keit, who engages in some awesome fight scenes with Paul Walker, but is really only there to showcase his martial arts skills. The baddest woman on the planet, current and reigning UFC Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has a small role as a bodyguard to an Arab billionaire prince. She engages in combat with resident tough girl Michelle Rodriguez, who lasts longer than Ronda's last three real life opponents combined. Remember the suspension of disbelief talk we had earlier? There you go again! Dwayne "The Literal Rocks For Muscles" Johnson is always great as Hobbs, and seems to be given the best one-liners in every movie, delivered expertly with his endless amounts of charm, though he should probably lay off calling females "woman." Hobbs and Shaw have another sweaty bald man-on-sweaty bald man fight scene in the beginning of the movie, which official satiates my lifelong quota of such things. Tyrese and Ludacris are back, still offering great comic relief and bantering between the two of them, only this time, Tyrese has some truly cringe-worthy moments of "humor" in the middle of the film. Vin Diesel is as even-toned and mumbly as ever, giving other one-liners that we could not imagine living without. Though we may hate to admit it, Vin Diesel managed to make us choked up in no less than 3 different movies, and  much like he did in "Guardians of the Galaxy," oh what we would have given to see him yell "I AM DOM!!!!" at some point!

We know Vin Diesel has already talked about there being an 8th installment to this franchise, and on one hand, we can't say we blame him. These movies are serious money makers, with "Furious 7" already well on track to make over a billion (!!!) dollars. It's pure insanity, the spell and the pull this series has on people. But, in a way, the end of this movie feels like it has wrapped up what it needed and wanted to, including a beautifully well-intentioned send-off of the late Paul Walker, who died tragically in a car accident in 2013 eerily reminiscent of many of the stunts pulled off in these exact movies. While watching his final film, it all felt a little too close to home. *********WARNING: SPOILERS*********    After a touching scene on the beach where Brian and Mia are shown playing with their son Jack, the camera pans to the other actors in the series waxing poetic about family, a theme seen heavily through the franchise, but more so in movies 5-7. As Dominic walks away without saying goodbye, the camera pans back to these actors, Paul Walker's real-life friends and family and people we have grown close to through these movies, and many of them had legitimate tears in their eyes. It is obvious that this scene was added into the film well after Walker's death, and just when we think we can handle what's going on, Vin Diesel utters some touching words as a variety of clips from the past Fast and Furious movies play in front of us. The tears are good and flowing now, and a heart-wrenching Vin Diesel voice-over begins. Brian and Dom share one final smile as they ride off into the sunset on their separate paths. It really couldn't have been more perfect. As a young kid, I had Tiger Beat and BOP! posters of Paul Walker and many other boy bands, actors and singers on my walls, and to think about life, as fragile as it is, is really very sad. To think this franchise might go on without Paul Walker after such a poetic ending would be blasphemy. No one can replace Paul Walker, and we hope no one ever tries.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~81%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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