Movie Review - Furious 7 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Movie Review - Furious 7

I believe there will be more sequels in this The Fast and the Furious franchise, but if there aren't, this film crafts a conclusion that works. It could be a nice cap for two reasons. One reason is because Paul Walker who played the original protagonist has died. Reason two is these characters have gotten so ridiculous and pointless. The ensemble here aren't cops or government agents, and there are only so many adventures into which they can be pulled unless they're doing so as criminals, and the outlaws shtick was dropped after the fifth film, so where do they go from here? Plus, the characters as written are no better than cheap comic book figures, but in some cases with less depth.

Instead of starting with the heroes, we start with the villain. Jason Statham (The Transporter and The Italian Job) is no stranger to movies where he has to be behind a wheel or shoot a gun. Here, he plays the big bad guy, Deckard Shaw who decides to take a page from Jeremy Irons' character in Die Hard: With a Vengeance and seek payback for the protagonists taking out his brother in the previous film. All you need to know is that Deckard is a highly skilled and highly connected mercenary.

At least with Jeremy Irons' character, he had ulterior motives to payback. Payback was just a smoke screen because honestly if he wanted someone dead, that person would be dead. Arguably, the same could be said for Deckard Shaw. If he wanted the protagonists dead, they would be. Writer Chris Morgan, however, needs to concoct a half-dozen or so scenarios involving racing or muscle cars in order to make this movie feel consistent with the others, thus he strings Deckard along on a very thin string. Sadly, the car scenarios only end up feeling very contrived and more importantly boring.

One of those contrivances is a heist involving an Abu Dhabi prince hiding a much-wanted computer chip inside his multi-million dollar, red Lykan HyperSport car, the third most expensive car in the world, which he keeps in a vault in his penthouse atop the Etihad Towers. What follows can only be the filmmakers trying to top the scene of the 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso being taken out the Central Park West skyscraper in Tower Heist (2011) and Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).

This sequence might have made more of an impact, if Morgan or director James Wan had any concept here of escalation. The film blows its load prior to this "tower heist" with an over-the-top sequence of cars parachuting from a cargo plane and hijacking an armored bus. Every moment is pushed always too far, always over the limit. The cars race along the edge of a cliff and Wan is not satisfied until every car goes over that edge and still every one survives. With no casualties along the way, there's no weight or stakes, or the true feeling of escalation.

Wan can stage multiple head-on collisions and every time the characters involved walk away without a scratch or a broken bone. This idea that the protagonists here are basically Universal Pictures' version of The Avengers has already been established with the previous film, but there has got to be a breaking point.

It doesn't help when logic is thrown out the window as well. The most egregious is the final sequence in downtown Los Angeles that has a terrorist named Mose Jakande, played by Djimon Hounsou, flying a super-weaponized helicopter and a predator drone over the city, destroying towers and blowing up police cars, and in this post 9/11 world the National Guard or U.S. military isn't called or dispatched. The only call goes to Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, whose character was hospitalized. Yet, he joins the melee all alone and with no back-up. It's ridiculous and stupid and devoid of all sense.

Vin Diesel stars as Dominic "Dom" Toretto and it's doubtful that he could have given a worse performance. Every line delivery is practically the same and he's so expressionless. The only one with any life to him is Tyrese Gibson who plays Roman. Unfortunately, the resident comic relief had a lot of jokes fall completely flat, as he simply pointed out the obvious stupidity that is this movie's plot. Michelle Rodriguez plays Letty who has amnesia, which climaxed in an emotional moment that was totally hollow. At least, she got a decent fight scene opposite MMA fighter Ronda Rousey. It couldn't balance though the insane amount of close-up shots of bikini-clad women's bottoms.

There was also this arc about Dom killing Deckard for what happened to Han, played by Sung Kang. Yet, when the final confrontation occurs, Dom doesn't kill Deckard, so what was the point? Hobbs tells Dom "not to miss," meaning with a gun, yet Dom opts for hand-to-hand combat, even though he could have easily shot Deckard. Again, ridiculous!

That only leaves what's supposed to be the heart of this movie, and that heart is Paul Walker. Walker died November 30, 2013 at the age of 40, ironically in a high-speed car crash. He took the James Dean exit. Walker was in the middle of filming this movie when he passed. As a result, the film was slightly re-written to "retire" the character. This included shooting additional scenes where a body double and CGI were used to recreate Walker's image on screen for new scenes he had not filmed.

Most of it feels pretty seamless, but there are obvious scenes that were done after Walker's death. A fight scene toward the end between Walker's character Brian and one of Jakande's mercenaries named Kiet, played by Thai martial artist Tony Jaa, seemed like a clear case of being done post Walker's crash. There's a fight earlier between Brian and Kiet on the armored bus where Walker was obviously present. The shots are well-lit and there are plenty of close-ups of Walker's face. The second fight between Brian and Kiet has a lot of shadows, particularly over Brian, and it avoids close-ups of Brian's face. It has probably one of the best falls down a long, staircase I've ever seen, but that's it.

The final scene was also clearly done after Walker's death and it's probably the best tribute to Paul Walker you'll ever see, but it's so heavy-handed that it feels like the character of Brian should have died and not simply "retire" from the franchise. It's on a beach from far away. Later, we see Brian in a pure, all-white car literally driving into the sunset, a pretty on-the-nose metaphor.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for frenetic violence and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 17 mins.
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