at the movies: furious 7

You knew this was coming. My fondness for junky action movies in general, and the Fast and Furious series in particular is well known. I’ve always said F&F has heart, and most outings in the series have enough of that fine quality to make them more worth watching than a car chase/exploding helicopter movie has a right to be. Furious 7 is particularly strong in the family feeling department, enough so that the extremely sentimental will want to bring a Kleenex or two. Detailed commentary is behind the cut (this flick is ridiculously plot driven and spoiling the fun would be criminal), but rest assured that there are plenty of cool cars, hot guys, hot girls, car fights, gun fights, ordinary hitting people fights, outrageous stunts and special effects, and of course spectacular car chases by the actual dozen. If you like that kind of thing, this is definitely the kind of thing you like.

Be aware, though, that enjoying this movie requires that you don’t just suspend disbelief so much as kick it out the back of a high flying aircraft while it’s sitting behind the wheel of a wild custom car. Don’t worry; it will land on its wheels with its engine revving.

Spoilers below; click if you dare.

The first question in the mind of any Fast and Furious fan approaching Furious 7 unspoiled is how well did the filmmakers deal with the death of second lead Paul Walker partway through filming. The answer is that they finessed it, and pretty darn well. Through the use of stand ins (Walker’s brothers), footage from other movies pasted in, and CGI tricks, Brian is in all the scenes he is supposed to be in. Since Walker was never the most expressive actor, it all works fairly well. Those of us who were hoping for a spectacular death scene for Brian as a way of writing him out of what is clearly still an ongoing story were disappointed, but he has been retired. Sort of. For the record I have a pretty good alternate interpretation of the ending if anyone wants to hear it.

Second, I have come to terms with Hobbs, the cartoonish special agent played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I have claimed in previous reviews that Johnson actually has negative acting talent and sucks energy out of any scene in which he appears. But apparently all it takes to fix the situation is a change of point of view, which I accomplished by the strategic application of a bit of headcanon. If you chose to see Hobbs as a low level super (enhanced strength, minor levels of indestructible) without a lot of brains outside a sense of tactics, his character makes perfect sense. This would be exactly how someone like that might live in a world without many other supers or a tradition of costumed adventurers. Seen through this prism, Hobbs is actually rather sweet, and I quite like him. I’m anxious to rewatch the previous outing in the series to see if this interpretation works as well for that movie.

Finally, some notes

  • I could live without the current solution to the apparent issue some people have with a badass action woman. It’s now perfectly possible to have a female character who is a first class hand to hand fighter, but it’s still apparently taboo to have her beat up a man. So action flicks and TV shows have to go to great lengths to set up situations where a good-guy lady badass fights a bad-guy lady badass, and frankly it can seem a little contrived even by genre standards. Please stop this.
  • There is no better “fruit cart” material than Chinese terracotta warriors. And no better vehicular “character” for a car chase than a Russian Oligarch’s Armored Assault Bus. Brian’s fight with the ROAA Bus will be something to remember him by.
  • Jason Statham makes a great villain and can easily outbadass a low level super, although a true hero is a bit too much for him. His two stick fight with Vin Diesel on the roof of the parking garage is epic. (He keeps his shirt on throughout the movie, though. Sorry Statham fans.)
  • Also epic is the drone chase. I have a feeling we are going to see a lot of drone chases in action movies the future.
  • Dom and Letty are one of the great romantic couples in action movie history.
  • Of course, the way Vin Diesel looks in a white waffle weave crew neck long underwear shirt doesn’t hurt.
  • I like the new major characters fairly well, particularly Kurt Russel’s handler character, Mr. Nobody, and his sidekick, the aptly named Sheppard.
  • Tony Jaa is a potential breakout action star. Somebody should really get him under contract for his own series or at least a major supporting role.
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