Furious 7 Movie Review

The adrenaline fused junk food soap opera that is the Fast and Furious franchise has met with real life in its seventh installment, Furious 7. The pic faced the unenviable task of addressing the death of one its signature stars Paul Walker, who lost his life in a car accident in 2013. The filmmakers handle it in a delicate and touching way at the conclusion and manage to give fans of the franchise what they’ve come to anticipate from this multicultural action fest. It’s got everything you’d expect: ridiculous and often cringe inducing one liners, incredibly choreographed sequences with cars doing things they have no business doing, beautiful scenery on both the human and geographical scale, and lots of dialogue about family (which hits closer than normal considering the events with Walker).

The plot of these proceedings is always secondary, of course. Furious 7 actually picks up after the events of Tokyo Drift, the series third entry and its weakest. This would be after the death of team member Han and our new villain is Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the older brother of part 6’s dearly departed villain Owen. Deckard is out for revenge and that means he’s targeting the whole crew, led by Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Walker), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who’s still suffering from her amnesia as a result of her near death in part 4. The other usual suspects return including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Jordana Brewster. And there’s Dwayne Johnson back as Hobbs, the gloriously over the top federal agent who is responsible for some of the silliest bits of dialogue. One notable newcomer is Kurt Russell as a shadowy government agent and the veteran performer seems to be having a lot of fun.

Where the Furious movies succeed or fail depends mostly on the action set pieces and 7 has some dandies. The whole midsection set in Abu Dhabi gives us some real thrills, particularly a sequence involving a multi million dollar car crashing through multiple buildings. The eventual climax back in the homeland of Los Angeles involves predator drones, a pretty far cry from a franchise that used to be concerned with just car tricks. When part 5 was released, the Onion newspaper hilariously pontificated that its screenwriter Chris Morgan was actually a kindergartner. He continues to write these pictures and by my math, he’d be in fourth grade now. Sometimes it still feels as if an elementary student is writing the words here, but that’s not really the point. In Furious world, what counts is the adventure on the screen. And there’s plenty of excitement that James Wan (a new director to the series) conjures up here. It’s pretty simple. If you like this franchise, you’ll like what you see the seventh time around. And you might be a little surprised at how just a completely unsubtle series handles the loss of one its biggest stars with a subtle touch.

*** (out of four)

Furious 7 Box Office Prediction

This Friday, the eagerly awaited Furious 7 looks to pass a number of box office milestones: biggest opening so far in 2o15 and highest debut of the fourteen year old franchise. Conjuring director James Wan takes over the series from Justin Lin.

The last two entries of the Fast and Furious series have brought the franchise to new heights. 2011’s Fast Five opened to $86.1 million with a final domestic tally of $209 million. Two years ago, Fast & Furious 6 topped that with a $97.3 million premiere and a $238 million eventual haul.

As tragic as it is, there is little doubt that star Paul Walker’s untimely death contributes to a curiosity factor here. This will be the last screen appearance of the actor as series regulars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris return. Kurt Russell and Jason Statham also join the party. Reviews have been quite strong and it sits at 86% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

Furious 7 needs to surpass the $95 million that Captain America: The Winter Soldier made last year to post the largest April opening of all time. As I see it, it will blast past that mark with relative ease to earn that designation and set the franchise record in the meantime.

Furious 7 opening weekend prediction: $117.4 million

The Fast and the Furious Movie Review

Being that the top two grossing opening weekends in Universal Pictures history is the last two installments of the Fast and Furious franchise, I felt it was time for yours truly to take a look at the series.

Yes, believe it or not, I have only seen the original F+F picture. That was twelve years ago and I barely remembered it. So what’s a blogger to do? Why go out and buy the first five flicks and review them all for your perusal. Hopefully, I’ll watch ’em in enough time to catch the sixth feature in the theater and blog about it as well.

Let’s begin with the franchise’s first entry, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. Director Rob Cohen brings us into the world of California street racing when LAPD officer Brian (Paul Walker) goes undercover to solve a series of truck hijackings. This introduces him to a team of racers led by Dominic (Vin Diesel). His crew includes his girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the one that doesn’t like Brian, the one whose dad is in jail, and, um, the other one. Of course, Brian also falls in love with Dominic’s sister (Jordana Brewster) in order for him to be emotionally invested.

Dominic’s crew is in a long-standing rivalry with an Asian street gang, led by Johnny Tran (Die Another Day‘s Rick Yune) and it is that crew that Brian initially suspects of being the perps. It just can’t be Dominic, especially after he explains his daddy issues to Brian in a male bonding moment.

Truth be told, The Fast and the Furious is no great of example of writing or, in my cases, acting. Walker is a bit of blank slate and Brewster is rather dull as well. The one with screen presence is definitely Mr. Diesel, as well as Ms. Rodriguez.

It’s worth noting that Fast seems directly influenced by an action pic that came ten years before it, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Call this Point Brake, if you will. Only it’s not near as good.

Where Fast often succeeds is its well choreographed car sequences that certainly make it highly watchable. Director Cohen directs the pic with energy and style with a soundtrack that bumps with Ludacris and Ja Rule beats for the first half and mostly techno in the second half.

Is it enough for me say the original Fast is a good movie? Not really, but it’s close. I certainly get why legions of moviegoers enjoyed it. If I’m being honest, though, I spent the last few minutes of the film wondering two things:

1) In the climactic truck hijacking, how come there’s zero traffic on a freeway other than the hijacked truck and Brian, Dominic, and crew?

2) Isn’t Paul Walker’s character literally the worst undercover cop in the history of undercover cops?

Still, the o.g. F+F gets the franchise off to a serviceable start. Who knew that this modestly budgeted flick would become the biggest franchise in the world that doesn’t involve superheroes or is based on a wildly popular series of books?

**1/2 (out of four)

We’ll see what the gang is up to as my blog series continues shortly with 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious.