Furious 7 Review

Review #108

Furious 7 movie posterSynopsis
After the events in London, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge for his brother against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). A government agent calling himself Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) makes an agreement with Toretto to help him if Toretto and his crew rescues the hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) from a group of terrorists led by Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).

Review
I have been anticipating Furious 7 for some time. Not because of Paul Walker, but because I’m a fan of the direction the series has been moving since Fast Five. While the franchise started out as a guilty pleasure, over the last several entries, it has become a series with a lot of heart mixed with the mindless action it started with. Furious 7 keeps the action going and is a great farewell to Paul Walker.

For the most part, each of the previous Fast movies have been located in one spot. Furious 7 on the other hand, breaks the mold and goes to several locations throughout the course of the film. Each one even more beautiful than the last. This change in scenery every few scenes makes the movie’s pace feel quicker. Not to mention it gives a variety of different driving set pieces. Scenes include, but are not limited to, winding mountains, city streets, desert, and even buildings.

Some of my favorite scenes from the series since Fast Five are the ones that display the relationship between Tej and Rom. Chris Bridges, better known as Ludacris, and Tyrese Gibson have such great chemistry. They are always poking fun at each other that always bring a smile to my face. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is a fun addition to the cast. He is no Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) when it come to witty government agents but he still offers some good humor.

Over the course of the franchise, we have seen Brian O’Conner grow and evolve. He went from cop to fugitive to FBI agent to bank robber. This movie showed him dealing with the next step: building a family while at the same time missing the excitement of his old life. His growth to building a family in this movie was the direction the series was already heading anyway, so his exit feels organic and not something that was forced due to the passing of Walker. There is a tribute to Walker at the end that is beautiful and emotional.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to Furious 7‘s action. On one hand the chase scenes are thrilling and exciting. With actors like Jason Statham and Ronda Rousey, the fight sequences are top-notch. And there were some cool camera effects, like the camera spinning with the characters getting thrown around (there is an example in the trailer involving Statham). But on the other hand, there is a lot of shaky cam. It is not as bad as most action movies but is still bugs me.

Another problem I had with the film is how long it took to set up. The movie spent the first forty minutes or so bringing the different groups together before it really took off. The franchise’s flimsy timeline didn’t help either. A lot of the set up had to deal with the Shaw brothers, Han (which included used footage from Fast and Furious 6 and Tokyo Drift), and the fallout of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) losing her memory after Fast & Furious. It was necessary in order to finally bring all the pieces together but may make it more difficult for viewers who haven’t seen some or most of the previous films to follow.

Taking the series’ core theme of family into overdrive, especially in the wake of Walker’s death, Furious 7 is the most heartfelt of the series. Of course there are also exciting action scenes, a variety of beautiful locations, and good new additions to the cast to keep it in line with previous Fast films.

Rating
4/5

Favorite Quote
Dominic Toretto: I don’t have friends, I have family.

For the rest of the Fast & Furious franchise, check out my reviews for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo DriftFast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Wan – Director
Chris Morgan – Writer
Brian Tyler – Composer

Vin Diesel – Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker – Brian O’Conner
Jason Statham – Deckard Shaw
Michelle Rodriguez – Letty
Tyrese Gibson – Roman Pierce
Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges – Tej
Nathalie Emmanuel – Ramsey
Jordana Brewster – Mia
Dwayne Johnson – Hobbs
Kurt Russell – Mr. Nobody
Djimon Hounsou – Jakande
Tony Jaa – Kiet
Ronda Rousey – Kara

Fast & Furious 6 Review

Fast & Furious 6 movie posterSynopsis
After their successful heist in Rio, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris), have all gone into hiding. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is investigating the destruction of a Russian military convoy, brought down by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs approaches Toretto and asks for his help. Dom initially refuses but reconsiders when Hobbs shows him a recent photo of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) , currently a member of Shaw’s crew.

Review
The Fast & Furious series has been an interesting one. It started out alright in The Fast and the Furious, then took a dive with 2 Fast 2 Furious, but has slowly grown in quality since Tokyo Drift, culminating in the fantastic Fast Five. Fast & Furious 6 maintains most of the elements that made Fast Five so entertaining while taking the franchise in a slightly new direction.

Most Fast & Furious movies have done well setting up the rest of the movie with the opening scene. This film starts with a montage consisting of scenes from every previous movie in the franchise. This does great to give you an idea of the history of the series, but also becomes more fitting as the movie goes on because every previous Fast & Furious movie is referenced. For those who have watched them all, it’s very gratifying. Even if you haven’t seen the other films, the story is still easily followed, you just won’t have the same rewarding experience.

Gibson has been the comedic relief of the series since he first appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious. He had a few funny moments in Fast Five but mostly when he was bantering with Ludacris. However, he steals the spotlight this time around. He had many one-liners that were hilarious, particularly during the first half of the movie. Johnson was more humorous, too.  Johnson can be funny as long as he has someone to play off of, which was missing in Fast Five.  Now that he had Gibson opposite, he is much better.

For a series whose original premise was car racing and chases, Fast & Furious 6 has really moved away from that focus. There are still car chases (it wouldn’t be an action/Fast & Furious movie without them), but definitely fewer and more spaced out. The action is balanced between several types of action scenes, instead of mainly cars. Car sequences are used as a tool, rather than the central focus.

The climactic scene is one epic set piece. Few scenes come to mind that are as intense as cars chasing a plane on a runway while several fights are happening inside the plane’s cargo bay. On a side note, I know that movies tend to exaggerate, but if that runway existed in real life, I’m pretty sure it would have stretched from one end of Europe to the other.

Hobbs was such a great adversary for the gang in Fast Five. He had both the resources and stature to be a valid threat to the entire team, particularly Brian and Dominic. But as an ally, he doesn’t have the same appeal. It was great because Johnson and Gibson could riff off each other, but other than that, the character wasn’t as interesting when he is working with Dom and his crew rather than against them.

Fast & Furious 6 steps even further away from the series thin plot roots and offers a more character-centric story. Gibson shines as the comedic relief and Johnson’s humor is better since he can go back-and-forth with Gibson. Hobbs was much better against the team than with them. The final, climactic scene was one of the largest in recent memory and is an explosive ending befitting any great action movie. Fast & Furious 6 shows that it isn’t afraid to move away from the series simple origins and offers an experience unlike any in the series.

Rating
3.5/5

For the rest of the Fast & Furious franchise, check out my reviews for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Furious 7.

Fast Five Review

Fast Five movie posterSynopsis
After Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) break Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of a prison transport bus, they rendezvous with Vince (Matt Schulze) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There, they are hunted by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), one of the FBI’s toughest agents. At the same time, the most ruthless crime lord in Rio, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), is looking for Dom and Brian. In order to gain their freedom, they call in some old friends to pull of one last job: a heist worth $100 million.

Review
I was skeptical to see Fast Five. The previous movie, Fast & Furious, started to show the potential of what the series could be. It gave a shot of adrenaline into the franchise, so what I was interested in seeing was if this film could carry the momentum started in Fast & Furious. I’m glad I didn’t give up on the franchise after 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift, because Fast Five was more than I anticipated and kicked the franchise into a whole new level.

Dwayne Johnson is a strong addition to the cast. There is an underlying humor when he delivers his lines that makes it very enjoyable to watch him on screen.  However, he doesn’t have anyone to play off of like in some of his other movies, so some of playfulness fades quickly.  Hobbs as a character is a great adversary for the gang. He is physically strong and can match Dom punch for punch, and a federal agent, to make it personal against Brian. Add in Johnson’s wit and charm and you have one of the best antagonists in the series.

One of my favorite aspects of this film is how well the character relationships were displayed. The best moments were when Tej (Ludacris) and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) were bantering. Tego (Tego Calderon) and Rico (Don Omar) had some great back-and-forth moments too.  What wasn’t explored that well were the relationships between characters that haven’t interacted before. Tej and Roman were together in 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Tego and Rico were part of Dom’s crew in Fast & Furious.  Other than when the entire group was together, characters from the different movies rarely interacted one-on-one.  I think this was a missed opportunity and could have made for some of the more interesting moments in the movie.

I think what really made this movie for me was that at Fast Five maintains the essence of The Fast and the Furious, but it is primarily a heist movie. In the end when they finally do the heist, it is probably one of the greatest robbery chase scenes I have seen. Dom and Brian are towing a vault behind their cars. It made for a wild ride and some pretty serious destruction.

Most of the more memorable characters from the previous Fast & Furious movies return in Fast Five. One of the characters who returned didn’t have much screen time and seemed to disappear during most of the movie just as quickly as they appeared. Then, they became a casualty to give the team some more motivation. It felt like the death was unnecessary. I loath when characters are killed off simply to give gravitas to the situation. The character could have remained alive without greatly affecting the story.

Fast Five continues the energy that began in Fast & Furious. Johnson is a great addition to the cast and offers up humor to the character and a great foe for Dom and Brian. The character relationships were fleshed out, but only among those who appeared together previously. Fast Five is a great heist movie, but at its core, it still has all the elements that made the original The Fast and the Furious so entertaining.

Rating
4.5/5

For the rest of the Fast & Furious franchise, check out my reviews for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7.

 

2 Fast 2 Furious Review

2 Fast 2 Furious movie posterSynopsis
After the events of The Fast and the Furious, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is on the run. He makes his way to Miami, where he makes friends with the street race organizer Tej (Ludacris), and fellow street racer Suki (Devon Aoki). Eventually, FBI Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry) finds and captures O’Conner and the two strike a deal: O’Conner must go back undercover and work with Customs agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) to bring down the drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) in exchange for a clean record. In order to give his cover credibility, O’Conner gets the help of his childhood friend, ex-convict Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson).

Review
My expectations for 2 Fast 2 Furious weren’t that high. The Fast and the Furious was a fun film, but it’s focus on cars and the racing underground didn’t seem like it had the power to garner a strong follow up. Unfortunately, I was right. The result was a movie that attempted to develop the character of Brian O’Conner, but threw out any idea of a plot for fast cars and fast action.

As with The Fast and the Furious, the main focus of this film are the cars. Once again, there is an abundance of gorgeous cars. And there is a greater diversity than before, too. Not only are there compact cars, but there also are pick-ups and classic American muscle cars. It was enjoyable to see more variety.

In terms of acting, The Fast and the Furious didn’t set the bar very high. But 2 Fast 2 Furious doesn’t improve any, either. Paul Walker seems like he is trying to fit in somewhere he doesn’t belong. I just doesn’t work. Tyrese Gibson and Eva Mendes do well, even actually help Walker seem less awkward, but their performances are nowhere near their best.

I would say my least favorite aspect about this movie is the dialogue. It probably played a part in my feelings towards Walker’s character. He dropped “cuz” and “bro” way too often to feel natural. Most of the conversations between characters feel like they were written by a teenager. Only b-list monster movies have worse dialogue.

There isn’t much of a plot. Rather, there is the illusion of a plot in order to show off the nice cars. This is more of a cop drama and a character study for Brian O’Conner than anything else. However, the lack of a solid plot undermines any character development this movie is trying to accomplish. At some points, the plot doesn’t even make sense. This is a perfect example that sometimes it is better if you don’t think about it very much, nod your head and just go with it. It’s not like this film tries to be clever anyway.

2 Fast 2 Furious is a sequel that was not really needed. They took a movie that understood what it was and tried to make a follow up that ended up with an identity crisis. Some nice cars and quick action aren’t enough to make up for the mess created by some poor acting and weak dialogue.

Rating
2/5

For the rest of the Fast & Furious franchise, check out my reviews for The Fast and the Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7.