Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Furious 7

Directed by: James Wan

Produced by: Neal H. Moritz
Vin Diesel
Michael Fottrell

Screenplay by: Chris Morgan

Based on: Characters created by Gary Scott Thompson

Starring: Vin Diesel
Paul Walker
Dwayne Johnson
Michelle Rodriguez
Tyrese Gibson
Chris Bridges
Jordana Brewster
Djimon Hounsou
Kurt Russell
Jason Statham

Music by: Brian Tyler

Cinematography by: Stephen F. Windon
Marc Spicer

Editing by: Christian Wagner
Leigh Folsim Boyd
Dylan Highsmith
Kirk M. Morri

Studio(s): Original Film
One Race Films
Media Right Capital
China Film

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): April 1, 2015 (TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Premiere)
April 3, 2015 (United States and United Kingdom)

Running time: 137 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $190 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $1, 511, 726, 205

Yeah, okay, I'm on a bit of a mad spree right now. See this is what happens when I push a button. Mad things happen and I just have fire coming out of my fingertips. See? Anywho, for those of you who missed them, I posted articles on Top 10 Movies Hipsters Tried To Ruin (But As With Everything In Life, Failed Miserably In The Process) (a title to match that of the full one of Dr. Strangelove) and a review for Child 44. Check 'em out. See what you make of it. Anywho, with guaranteed reviews on the way for Magic Mike XXL, Southpaw, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys and The Lazarus Effect, be sure to keep your eyes posted!

So up under the knife here is Furious 7 (or Fast 7, or Fast & Furious 7, or whatever the hell they're calling these films). We all know the preface to this latest release in the franchise, but I feel it's necessary to recap and give my five dimes. During a Thanksgiving production break while shooting the film, longtime franchise player Paul Walker died in a single vehicle accident on November 30, 2013, causing Universal to put production on hold indefinitely. Walker was never the best of actors, but he was certainly beloved by fans of the franchise and it's cast and crew, who lost not only a colleague, but a close personal friend. Within weeks of Universal putting the film on hold, Vin Diesel announced that filming would resume in April and would be released in April of 2015. In Walker's place, stand-ins including his brothers Caleb and Cody were used, and in scenes requiring his face, CGI techniques similar to those used in the place of Oliver Reed in Gladiator in order to simulate his appearance. So, Furious 7 was finished, essentially as a tribute to Paul Walker, and fans flocked to cinemas in homage to their fallen hero. The Fast & Furious franchise has always done good box-office, and has steadily been earning more as each instalment goes by (Fast & Furious 6 earned $789 million worldwide), but Furious 7 grossed ridiculous numbers, earning over $1.5 billion worldwide, and currently stands as the fifth highest-grossing film of all time. I think that just shows the outpouring of love that this series has developed over the years, especially in recent years as they've decided to eschew the well-worn niche of street racing and make the action surrounding the films more based upon heists. So, plot goes that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Bryan O'Connor (Paul Walker) and the rest of their team have returned to the United States, having received amnesty for their past crimes in Fast & Furious 6, until Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a rogue special forces assassin seeking to avenge his comatose younger brother, kills one of their crew and them all in danger once again. Got it good?

Starting off with the good, the thing that I have most enjoyed about the recent instalments in this franchise is that they have shifted the focus away from being specifically 'car' movies and are more heist-based caper movies. This is a formula that produces a near-infinite amount of possibilities, both in terms of storyline and a rotating ensemble cast, and Furious 7 is no different. Alongside Diesel, Walker, Dwayne Johnson and the usual bunch, here we've got Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey. The key thing as well is that each of these performers, even if, like Jaa and Rousey's minor roles, they are implemented well into the overall fold. The Stath makes for a legitimately menacing villain and Russell is a welcome addition as the leader of a covert ops team. As such, there is a stronger group dynamic in this one film than Sylvester Stallone ever achieved over the course of his three Expendables pictures. As I highlighted previously in my review for the previous film, I love how they've totally embraced the ridiculousness and absurdity, just going all out for the stunts and wanton destruction. If you are an action stunt fetishist then this is totally your thing; you've got chaotic car chases in a variety of locations such as Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi, insanely destructive fight scenes (basically any time there's a clash involving Diesel, Johnson and/or The Stath, there's at least as much carnage as a fight from Dragonball Z), you name it, they've got it. Fast & Furious 6 won my Vic Armstrong Award for Best Stunt Work in 2013, and Furious 7 is certainly in the running for it. The film also contain much of the same crew 'behind the scenes,' as it were, so it has a trademark flourish to the cinematography and it is generally a well-paced and edited picture. The key new addition comes in the director's chair, with horror director James Wan taking over the mantle after longtime series helmsman Justin Lin, who directed the last four films, left due to Universal putting pressure on him for an accelerated schedule to make a sequel following the last film, which would have meant Lin would have to begin pre-production on Furious 7 during post-production of Fast & Furious 6. Despite this change in lineup and the long shadow of Paul Walker lingering over the proceedings, Wan delivers an assured, confident film which shows that the man has talents that extend outside the horror genre. There are so many tangibles involved, not just with big-budget filmmaking as a whole, but this production in particular, that could have seen things go awry, but he and the rest of them nailed it. While I didn't find it as outright entertaining as Fast & Furious 6, I do have to say that there is a fair amount of emotional oomph to the film, which feels surprisingly hefty and legitimate whenever they do decide to sit down and get serious. You feel that the warmth, love and camaraderie this group carries is something special, and is a fitting tribute to Paul Walker.

Now we get to the tricky bit. I know that the fans of this franchise (of which I can include myself) are absolutely devoted, and are going to be extra sensitive when it comes to people critiquing this particular film. I'm never one to compromise myself with regards to my opinions, so don't say I didn't give you advance notice. I like these films. Indeed, they've gotten better as the years have gone. However, it doesn't change the fact that we are still yet to get a truly great Fast And The Furious film. Just gonna put that out there, and when it comes to Furious 7, I'll tell you why. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Do I find it a loving tribute to Paul Walker? Yes. Can I remember an iota of the actual plot of the film itself? No. While the stunts and the emotional connection might be there, there needs to some fire, some electricity, to kickstart the heart of the central story. A lot of the time, when 'story' comes into play, we get a little soliloquy from Vin Diesel about "family," and also, I do have to ask, how many times are this group going to be brought out of retirement? Yeah, I get it, they're reluctant heroes, but two movies in a row I've seen them leaving behind beautiful tropical beaches and a variety of exotic locales to blow shit up. I manage to enjoy the films despite every sense coming through my pores telling me otherwise, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm a guy who wants a story to follow, and unfortunately, story is secondary here as it usually is in the rest of the franchise. Don't get me wrong, it's a largely positive response to the film, but I have to be measured here folks. Oh, and while I like the See You Again song and it's usage, I'm still tetchy about Brian Tyler's music.

In short, while I do feel that story as a whole is secondary here, as it is in the rest of the franchise, I still found myself having a good time with Furious 7. The ensemble cast carries a group dynamic that I'm sure Stallone wishes he could replicate for his Expendables films, the wide variety of stunts involving car chases and fist fights are of a consistently high standard, and the crew carried over from previous instalments carry over to give the picture it's stylistic flourishes and pacing. James Wan is a welcome addition to the franchise, overseeing with assurance and confidence the film's many tangibles, ensuring that the long shadow of Paul Walker does not become a dark one, and that, with this loving tribute to a lost comrade, the future is still very bright for this franchise.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Alright (still got the bug!)

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