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Awesome: 16.67%
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Furious 7
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by Brett Gallman

"You will believe a car can fly."
5 stars

A seventh entry in any franchise—and especially one that spawned with a shameless rip-off of “Point Break”—should inspire natural cynicism. Universal cranking out that many “Fast & Furious” films in less than fifteen years feels like it could be an absolute nadir of film-as-product, as the latest model rolls off of the assembly line fit for biannual consumption. But instead, it exists as proof that franchise filmmaking doesn’t have to be a soulless, jaded endeavor, and this latest entry doubles as evidence that this series might be as bulletproof as its heroes at this point. Considering the deck stacked against it, “Furious 7” is a goddamn miracle.

In the face of new director James Wan taking the helm, the regularly occurring diminishing returns of sequels, and the untimely death of star Paul Walker, “Furious 7” is defiant as hell. It doesn’t just go back to work with a business-as-usual shuffle but with the cocksure strut of an adrenaline junky whose version of liquid courage involves straight up injecting Nos. To put it mildly, “Furious 7” is a deranged blockbuster that has evolved beyond plot—it’s a film that hinges on pure instinct and motivation as its characters race from one set-piece to the next, where the overarching theme amounts to the simple urge to outdo itself.

If one wanted to approach the film’s miraculous liveliness exclusively in terms of this insane dedication, it’s certainly feasible. You could talk about how it spins an absurd tale through an ironically overstuffed plot that comically balloons from an intimate revenge thriller to a Roger Moore era James Bond caper. Somehow, Owen Shaw’s (Jason Statham) quest to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of Dom (Vin Diesel) and family tenuously intersects with a black ops operator’s (Kurt Russell) pursuit of a warlord (Djimon Hounsou) who has kidnapped a hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) responsible for the creation of an advanced surveillance system. Somehow, Dom’s family is the only one on earth who can rescue and secure this device. Not bad for a bunch of gearheads who used to rob trucks for DVD players on the highway.

You could further talk about how this takes the crew on their most outrageous globe-hopping adventure yet, one that has them parachuting cars out of a cargo plane over the Caucasus Mountains, leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper in Abu Dhabi, and outrunning predator drones in downtown Los Angeles. You could talk about how Wan masterfully blends his own hyperkinetic style into an already turbo-charged neon aesthetic, yet manages to films staggering set-pieces with breathtaking scope and clarity. You could talk about how “Furious 7” is relentless and exhausting, yet remains riotously entertaining throughout. Wan has graduated from making audiences jolt from their chairs to rousing them from their seats in applause.

All of these are valid reasons to explain how “Furious 7” impossibly works, but each misses the fundamental truth: like its predecessors, this one works because of its characters. For over a decade now, audiences have listened to Dominic Toretto grunt about family and loyalty, and he’s done with an absolute sincerity that’s barreled through the fourth wall. The “Fast” series loves its characters like few franchises do; it’s so infectious that the audience can’t help but reciprocate. By now, these films aren’t about getting the band back together so much as they’re family reunions. Before “Furious 7” truly ramps up, it takes time to catch up with old friends: Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are still dealing with the latter’s amnesia, while best bro Brian O’Conner (Walker) is having trouble adjusting to domestic life and mini-vans.

While the bulk of the film’s emotional arc predictably rests with these core characters, it’s remarkable how none of the supporting cast gets lost. Considering the sheer amount of carnage, this is doubly impressive, as the screenplay carves out enough space for everyone to shine more than once. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) bust each other’s balls, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) swaggers (and sweats!) through each scene like a man possessed, and, hell, they even wrangled in Lucas Black to briefly reprise his role from “Tokyo Drift.” Of all the absurdities here, his playing high school senior Sean Boswell as a 32-year-old is the most delightful.

And most of this stuff is before all of the action hits. Firing off just a portion of the incredible displays in “Furious 7” reads like teenaged fever dream: this is a film where Paul Walker fights Tony Jaa in the middle of a moving bus and it’s not even their most thrilling interaction. Johnson basically makes a bookended cameo as Hobbs, yet nearly walks away with the entire film because this series more than any other allows him to simply be The Rock, all hulking musculature, rousing one-liners and pure machismo. One sequence functions as a “Mission: Impossible” homage, only I’m guessing we’ll never get a “M:I” movie where Tyrese does a standup routine to distract the bad guys. Holy shit, this movie.

Even most of the new faces acquit themselves quite well: Emmanuel slides right in with the gang, while both Jaa and Ronda Rousey prove to be memorable henchmen. For a franchise built on an affinity for cars, “Fast and Furious” has provided some punishing, brutal hand-to-hand combat in recent years, a trend that continues here in spite of the shaky camerawork and rapid fire editing that has plagued American action cinema for the past decade.

Plus, you have to cut Wan eternal slack for gifting the world with a “Fast and Furious” movie featuring Kurt Russell. Read back over that sentence and realize that humanity may have peaked with the concept alone. The good news is that “Furious 7” delivers on the idea and then some: in what amounts to the Nick Fury role for Dom’s team, Russell slyly eats up the opportunity to chum around with the crew (yes, we live in a world where Kurt Russell and Tyrese have shared the screen) before mixing it up in battle.

Speaking of moments: Russell has one that might as well double as a religious experience, though every second he spends on screen might as well be scored by the “Hallelujah Chorus.” If The Rock is “Franchise Viagra,” the Russell is “Franchise Messiah,” a leader that takes a series to even further, ethereal heights. Bless this series for knowing exactly what to do with its characters, even if the villains here are outshined, as the villains in “Fast & Furious” films typically are (still, I could hardly contain myself when Statham and Diesel began to street fight using mechanic’s tools—the film does a lot of mileage out of the thrill of seeing Jason Statham in a “Fast” movie).

Obviously, “Furious 7” goes entirely over the top—or maybe it’s just more apt to say it’s been doing victory laps over the top for over five years now. As a franchise rolls on, it’s not unusual to see it embrace such absurdity; however, it’s quite rare to see it do so without a flippant sense of irony. As always, this latest effort drifts right up to the edge of winking at the audience without tumbling right over it. Any nods are sincere call-backs to earlier entries, many of which reinforce just how long we’ve been riding alongside this crew; between this and the film’s dedication to sincerity, you’re willing to accept every twist and turn, including its inevitable detour towards addressing Walker’s death.

Never has this franchise’s affinity sentiment been more obvious than it is here: while the specter of Walker’s demise hangs over the entire film, it’s not directly confronted until a heart-wrenching coda that practically breaks the fourth wall as cast, crew, and audience alike bid farewell to the beloved star. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like the cinematic eulogy that unfolds here, but it is simultaneously beautiful, awkward, corny, touching, and wholly genuine.

Truly, you would not expect anything less from the “Fast and Furious” series, which becomes a Vin Diesel Facebook post committed to celluloid during these final minutes. This is to say I fought back tears moments after watching Diesel and The Rock blow up a helicopter with hand grenades and a pistol in one of the wildest tonal whiplashes I’ve ever encountered. (Spoiler: the tears won).

Diesel’s unreserved enthusiasm and transparent acting have made him the perfect avatar for this series, and he’ll likely soldier on in the role. Part of me thinks it would be unnecessary since this would be fitting as the franchise’s final quarter-mile as it rides off into the sunset, plowing through each obstacle in its path, unconquered by irony and diminishing returns. This is how you go out on top.

I don’t know if that makes “Furious 7” the best one yet, but, then again, you can’t rank family.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25900&reviewer=429
originally posted: 04/04/15 01:30:45
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell the series peaked with first one vin diesel is a crap actor 1 stars
10/08/15 mr.mike Has a been there-done that feel, Russell is underused and Walker is obviously spliced in. 2 stars
8/05/15 Meep Liked 4 and 5 but this one missed the spot, despite some good moments 2 stars
4/11/15 Loader These movies are terrible 1 stars
4/05/15 KingNeutron A bit too much shaky-cam and unbelievable lack of bodily hurt, but well worth seeing 4 stars
4/04/15 Bob Dog Seven sucked the fun out of the franchise - - unnecesarily soapy. 2 stars
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  03-Apr-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Sep-2015


  DVD: 15-Sep-2015

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