Fast & Furious 7, 2015.
Directed by James Wan.
Starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, Ronda Rousey, Tony Jaa, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Brotherton and Djimon Hounsou.
Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for his comatose brother.
There’s one line in Furious 7 which epitomises this film and this series as a whole; it’s not the endlessly shoehorned-in mentions of ‘family’ and being ‘bros’ but a line from five time Academy Award nominee Ludacris who utters the words “I can’t watch this anymore”.
My sentiments exactly.
This series, with the exception of Fast Five – which is now clearly an anomaly or sheer fluke – is the antithesis of what I look for from blockbuster action films, but my threshold is quite fair. A film like this needs to have at least one of four things going for it, namely;
- Characters which I believe are doing the things they do. I have to believe a hacker is a hacker, a thief is a thief, and an FBI agent is an FBI agent even at the most base level.
- An interesting plot in which the characters appear to belong, or, at minimum, have a tangible reason to do what they do.
- Action sequences which build up gradually, teasing the audience that more will come without exasperating them. They can be silly and have me go along with the silliness (like many James Bond films did) but they should never be dumb.
- Lead actors who have charisma, charm, and screen presence. If all else fails, this is the fall back which can still make an action film a success.
Furious 7 offered me nothing, but threw absolutely everything at me; the more action director James Wan shows, the less important the reasons why it’s happening become and the more the film (like Furious 6 showed as well) embraces its stupidity.
Looking back on the first film from 2001, it was insanely dull but at least it kept to the basic story of fast cars and heists and the central characters Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’ Conner (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) were believable doing the things they were doing (see rule number one, above) despite their lack of acting talent because the film showed us a world with rules and conduct and some semblance of relationship building. Now, six films later, there are military drones blowing up half of Los Angeles and cars jumping between sky scrapers.
Now, let’s just take a deeper look at the action in this film. On the surface it might appear exciting because everything either blows up or gets destroyed, but James Wan makes such little use of the locations and surrounding in favour for obvious CGI that the entire film might as well be filmed against a blue screen. At one point the action moves to Abu Dhabi, one of the most iconic cities in the world and home to the world’s tallest building; think how the city was used by the team behind Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol by showing us a stunt we’d never seen before, plus a car chase in adverse weather conditions which is special to that location. In the hands of James Wan CGI cars jump through CGI windows which could be in any tall building in the world, with no logical explanation why.
Another case in point; after the one set piece which put a smile on my face, where a bus is teetering on the edge of a cliff and Paul Walker must somehow escape (a nicely planned cause and effect in that scene), the action, overbloated as it is, moves back to the escapades of Vin Diesel. Trapped on the edge of a cliff (hadn’t we just seen that? Never mind), his and the screenwriter’s logic is to drive off the cliff. About 200 feet high. And crash. With another person in the car. Whom he is supposed to protect. It makes no sense whatsoever and I or one cannot go along with such idiotic writing.
Wan is takes all of the trademark Michael Bay camera movements and quick edits and applies them to scenes which simply do not warrant that kind of kinetic energy – like a phone call in a hospital. Bay may be many things and may have done more harm than good to action cinema since the turn of the century, but one thing he is himself, he doesn’t try to be anyone else. The list of directors-for-hire who have been given hundreds of millions of dollars to make summer movies by copying the ‘Bayhem’ is disturbing – John Moore, James Wan, Peter Berg, Jonathan Liebesman, Louis Leterrier, Zack Snyder – and it is killing action cinema.
With such a huge cast of characters, everyone needs to have their screentime so we’re forced to see the talent vaccums that are Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson ‘banter’ with dialogue which can only have been written on a napkin during a lunch break on the shoot of 2 Fast 2 Furious (which makes this one look like Walter Hill’s The Driver by comparison) and recycled 12 years later. In the hands of Gibson a cool but arrogant character comes off as someone you want to see die a horrible death in each and every scene they appear in. And what do they mostly talk about? Women and their asses.
Let’s not forget Michelle Rodriguez, her of the steely expression which could a melt stone if you ever believed it was real. Of course she has a girl-on-girl fight with Ronda Rousey who I recognised from, and brought back unwelcomed memories of The Expendables III, and this film is in no way better than any of those multi-character Stallone movies which were at one point fun but now lost in self-importance. And just why does Rodriguez need to fight Rousey? The answer is because she has to have something to do.
Moreover, just when did these ALL of these characters become indestructible super heroes like James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne, and the Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Willis characters which were so popular in the 80s and 90s? If you can believe for one moment that they have the skills to fight, shoot, hack, plan mastermind schemes and drive cars then good for you because you’ll have a blast. For me, this is a series which rewards arrogance, stupidity, and recklessness and holds it up as a shining light for audience members to aspire to.
I can see why mass audiences might like the film, of course I can. There isn’t a plot which is strong enough to connect each scene so there’s no need to apply your brain to anything on the screen; the acting is so excruciating poor the film makers leave dialogue to a minimum and throw more explosions at the screen to make up for it, so it makes the money paid for the ticket seem worthwhile; the run time is nearly two hours and twenty minutes so it never seems to end, which can only mean ‘more is better’ and that giant bucket of popcorn now seems like a good investment.
However, for me this film is so stupid it bypasses fun and entertainment and goes straight into category of ‘utter crap’ and, moreover, it cements the fact that the series is to the action genre what Transformers is to sci-fi. Crass, crude, dumb, and head-poundingly boring. Throwing everything at the screen does not make for an enjoyable experience and to give this series a pass but to stomp all over Transformers is beyond me. Both are as bad as each other and both need to stop.
Then I see on Jimmy Kimmel Vin Diesel talking about this film as the first in a new trilogy… Great news for fans of mindless set pieces, uncharismatic leads, and appalling sexism.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Rohan Morbey – follow me on Twitter.