07252017Headline:

“Furious 7” review

By Kamel Benyahia

Fast-and-Furious-7-Pic

I have a new favorite movie. The Fast & Furious franchise is the manifestation of every boy and girl’s “Hot Wheels” fantasies into movies that increasingly become more epic than the last. We started with an undercover cop infiltrating a Los Angeles street racing crew to find missing DVD players and electronics, and now the crew is helping shadowy government organizations that make the CIA and MI:6 look like minor league operations. In that cumulative journey you see a friendship develop between the stoic leader of the street racing crew and the former undercover cop as they go from enemies to friends and then family. The franchise may have hit a few speed bumps in its history, but it has grown into a global franchise that shows no signs of slowing down.

Director James Wan is a newcomer to the series, taking over for Justin Lin who revived the series with “Tokyo Drift” (3) and went on to make “Fast & Furious” (4), “Fast Five,” and “Fast and Furious 6.” Wan cut his teeth with the “Saw” franchise, which I have not seen, so I was not sure what to expect going into the theater. I was sold after the first chase scene that reflected the simple, uncut, and glorious shots of two powerful cars racing through a traffic-infested city. This is where car movies like “Getaway” make the mistake of over-editing car chase scenes, which effectively kills all of their beauty. You get none of that with “Furious 7.” You will actually hear a car go through a full gear with exhaust notes giving the audience chills, and you can see the car weave through traffic and slide around corners in one shot. For anyone who wants to shoot a car chase scene, this is the formula that captures the car lover’s attention. I knew we were in good hands with series newcomer James Wan after the first act of “Furious 7.” Wan’s camera techniques during fight scenes were especially amusing. Seeing the Rock get knocked down onto a couch by Statham’s character was cool, but then the couch flips back with the Rock on it and the camera follows the Rock as if the camera is attached to the couch that is rolling back. It makes for a cool perspective that is used a few times during the hand-to-hand fight sequences.

The acting in this movie is up to par. I felt like each actor has settled into their roles and it just feels natural now. It doesn’t feel like acting when Michelle Rodriguez shares her feelings with Vin Diesel, it feels natural when Ludacris jokes with Tyrese, and it feels like a true friendship when Vin and Paul Walker work together. I have seen bad acting in Fast & Furious movies, but they never were out to get Oscars. They are out to entertain and they have accomplished that. The Rock returns in a small role with a big impact, and Jason Statham is one of the best baddies I have witnessed on screen. Kurt Russell also makes a couple of appearances and he is pleasantly surprising as the cocky secret agent.

I generally don’t mention music in a movie since it always takes a back seat to the action on screen, but I really felt like they hit the mark with the music in “Furious 7.” They bring back music from the original Fast & Furious as a nostalgic treat for those of us who have faithfully watched every movie multiple times to set the tone of coming back home. They even use orchestra music for some intense fighting scenes that make it seem like gods are fighting on Mount Olympus as opposed to two men fighting in an office building or parking garage, but it made the fights feel more epic.

I would normally talk about the cars in a car movie, but the team goes through so many cars in this installment that I will mention each group of cars from each act. Vin Diesel’s character always runs American Muscle, unless you count his RX-7 from the first movie, and he really likes his Mopars. The first time the team comes together they get off-road vehicles that are rally versions of their street counterparts. Imagine muscle cars with large off-road tires, brush guards, roll cages, and roof rack lights. This is a clever idea and a departure from the slammed tuners and exotics that we have all become accustomed to. Then the Abu Dhabi act features the team driving through the desert in several exotic cars, except for Diesel’s character who is driving a modern day Charger which is at least 100,000 dollars cheaper than the next cheapest car in the group. I thought it was a bit strange to see a Charger rolling down the road in the same pack as a Veyron, but like I said Diesel really likes his Mopars. The scene with the exotic car ramping from skyscraper to skyscraper is pretty fun, but the CGI was apparent unlike the scene with the off-road cars falling out of a plane which looked realistic. Vin busts out the legendary Charger with the blower standing tall and the butterfly valves ready to open up like a bull flaring his nostrils. This car has become the symbol of the franchise and has reached the pinnacle of Hollywood car royalty next to McQueen’s Mustang from “Bullitt” and Eleanor from “Gone in Sixty Seconds.” I don’t want to divulge too much information about the final action scenes, but just know that this movie has some of the best car action sequences in the franchise.

This is the final movie for Paul Walker and the way they handled his sendoff was beautiful. The first movie of the franchise came out when I was in high school and was just getting involved with the whole tuner crowd, when the movie came out it made it popular and cool to modify cars aesthetically and performance wise. As I got older and grew out of the street racing tuner crowd I recognized the franchise was doing the same. This is one reason I have been attached to this movie franchise from the beginning. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s chemistry on screen were another reason many people stayed around for each new entry. They were perfect on screen together and made a great team as Brian and Dom and as Paul and Vin. If you love this franchise as much as I do you will not have dry eyes after the last scene and the fade to white followed with two words – For Paul. This movie is an action overload on steroids and bath salts that has a strong emotional undercurrent giving it more gravitas. As a result, we get the ultimate action movie that shows it can handle a tragic loss with dignity.

P Walker

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