Furious 7 (2015)
★★★★ / ★★★★
Action films have a reputation of being more brawny than brainy and “Furious 7,” directed by James Wan, embraces this expectation. There is nothing wrong with this approach because brawny can be equally entertaining—under a right mindset—if the picture is executed and put together in a smart way. This film embodies such characteristics which makes it a standout not only within the franchise but also compared against ninety percent of mainstream action movies where there is glass shattering, bruise-inducing, vehicle-totaling galore.
Toretto (Vin Diesel) wants Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother of the former big bad Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), now comatose, for the slaying of Han (Sung Kang). But getting Deckard is no simple feat due to his extensive military training which forces Toretto to team up with a man who works for the government, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). If Toretto were able to successfully acquire a powerful computer program called the God’s Eye and get it in the hands of the government, Toretto could use it to track Deckard—be the hunter instead of the hunted—instead of the other way around. But first Toretto and his motley crew must rescue the hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) responsible for making the program from the hands of a known international terrorist (Djimon Hounsou).
The previous paragraph is a mouthful but the plot is clean and straightforward. In a nutshell, it is a revenge picture with luxurious cars and various excesses. It is composed of three major action scenes which take place in the Caucasus Mountains, Abu Dhabi, and the streets of Los Angeles. The director ensures that each one is drawn-out but strong and highly entertaining. There is variation in tone, pacing, and feel with each of these sequences and so not once do we feel like we are watching a YouTube clip of a car crash on repeat for over two hours.
The locations are as much of an attraction as the cars themselves. The chase that unfolds in the Caucasus Mountains commands thrills because of the windy roads, rocks on the left, and cliffs on the right. Couple these natural dangers with overpowering speeds of vehicles, a rain of bullets and other ammunitions, and a stunt involving a character being trapped in a vehicle as it slides down the road and onto the edge of a cliff, tearing your eyes away from the screen is near impossible. There is so much going on and yet we are drawn in because the editing of the action allows us to appreciate the images, the sounds, and the emotions that make up these series of scenes.
Most outstanding is what happens when Toretto and his team (Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris) attend a billionaire’s party in one of the Abu Dhabi towers. This time, the action transpires in an enclosed space. Thus, it is exciting in a different way. The characters must be (or try to be) a bit more sleuth. This time, they must acquire an item instead of a person. The mano a mano is between two women, instead of two men. Even the clothes our protagonists wear are not the sort of attires they sport typically. Director Wan and writer Chris Morgan are astute enough to employ vastly contrasting elements in order to refresh our attention instead of giving us more of the same and numbing the brain.
A shortcoming is the cheesy dialogue during the expository scenes. I groaned on the inside because of how bad the exchanges were; kind of like sitting through a soap opera that you just cannot believe has been on air for years. This limitation can be easily forgiven, however, not because it is an action film—which many are likely to cite as the picture’s defense—but because everything else is so heightened, does one really care about a couple of bad lines? I don’t—some people may—but it is worth pointing out.
“Furious 7” has a sense of humor about itself, like being around a friend who is unafraid to make fun of himself or be poked fun of for the sake of everyone having a good time. Some may reduce the film as “car porn.” But if car porn is this good, consider me addicted and in need of serious help.