Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Curiouser and Furiouser - A Fast and Furious Watch: Part 7 - Furious 7

So here we are at the most recent Fast and Furious movie, a film that feels like a swan song, that feels like the finale in a series more than a decade long, but oddly is not.  I think my biggest takeaway from this movie is that there is absolutely no reason for there to be any more Fast and Furious movies after this one.  The death of Paul Walker alone should render a continuation completely unnecessary, but this film really satisfactorily resolves all the lingering threads from the previous movies and any continuation feels like a cash grab to me.  I have read that the new movie which is coming out next year features both Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren and my appreciation for both actresses aside, I find the film entirely unnecessary at best.

On to the recap. I thought this movie was actually considerably better paced and overall more engaging than the 6th.  Sad as it is, I feel that the elimination of both Han and Gisele tightened the narrative and kept the action sequences more cohesive.  So too did the sidelining of Hobbs for much of the film, which enabled the plot to focus on the core group: Dom, Brian, Tej, Letty, and Roman.  While the introduction of the hacker Ramsey and Kurt Russell's Mr Nobody did add a bit of novelty to the mix, by tightening the focus on 5 characters during most action sequences vs the 8 of the previous film, I had a much clearer idea of what was going on and where everyone was.  In truth, Roman's shtick is completely played out and in my opinion if they wanted to only have 5 main characters in the crew they should have kept Han and gotten rid of Roman. Roman doesn't even eat any chips the entire movie.  He is just obnoxious.  Heck, they could just get rid of Roman entirely and have Ramsey be the 5th member of the team.

So the film starts out with the revelation that Jason Statham is playing Shaw's brother, Deckard.
Whatever.  So Owen Shaw actually didn't die in the 6th movie, he was just grievously injured, but his brother is sufficiently pissed off that he goes on a one man revenge mission to take down the FF crew.  So there is some plotty stuff with hackers and terrorists and whatnot, but essentially the plot of this film is Jason Statham wants to kill everybody and Dom wants to kill the fuck out of him because he murdered Han.  Dom is a character that is motivated primarily by his love of family and his protectiveness of his crew.  The entire plot of Fast & Furious if you recall was Dom trying to find Letty's murderer and fuck him up.  Now he does it again for Han.  Dom has become like a poor man's street racing Liam Neeson.

Dom begins the film by taking Letty to the same Race Wars out in the desert that they visited in the very first movie.  Basically he is trying to jog her memories with things that are familiar.  Revisiting this location was a great idea just in general as it grounds us in the reality that while Dom and his crew have moved beyond just street racing to basically being an on-call Dirty Dozen, regular run of the mill street racing crews are still having their butt jiggling dance parties where the biggest problems they face are losing their pinks and getting picked up by the cops.  Letty experiences a bit of a breakdown after racing, though, and punches out Hector, that racer dude from the first movie.  Her attempts at recalling her former life have been a mixed bag.  Later, Letty visits her own grave and tells Dom that he should just leave it, since "Letty" died that day and she is someone new.  Dom tries to console her, but she needs to figure things out on her own.  Michelle Rodriguez is not the best actress actress in the world, but I actually bought her struggle in this movie as a woman who wants the life she missed, but doesn't remember it.

Meanwhile Brian has gone full on domestic, driving around in a mini van and dropping his son off at preschool.  The sequences of his happy life with Mia, who incidentally is pregnant once again, were really melancholic for me.  Brian the character is antsy, missing his old life while simultaneously trying to be a good father to his son; Paul Walker the actor tragically died in a high speed car crash leaving behind a young daughter. Walker's penchant for fast cars, honed over the course of filming the FF series literally resulted in his demise while on break from filming this very movie.  It is a bitter pill to swallow as I watched the film, that the dramatic action sequences, high speeds, and drifts contributed to the death of a young actor who was almost universally liked by his cast and crew mates.

Anyway, back to the plot.  Shaw breaks into Hobbs' office and is doing some hacking shit to try to find the FF crew when Hobbs confronts him.  This leads to a massive gunfight that results in the tragic loss of a lot of expensive office furniture. Hobbs takes a flying leap out the window to try to stop Shaw and ends up breaking his collarbone, though how he didn't just straight up die is kind of preposterous.  This whole thing was like the chicken fight from Family Guy or something.  Anyway, apparently Shaw got enough info because he sent a bomb to Brian and Mia's house which they luckily were not in at the time.  Dom visits Hobbs in the hospital and discovers A) he has a daughter who is super cute and B) Deckard Shaw is like some super evil former Special Forces guy and has been doing shady shit for a long time.  Hobbs gives Dom a mission to basically just kill that dude, but like ya know off the books because the government can't actually hire assassins.  Brian sends Mia and Jack off to the Dominican Republic to be safe and then Dom heads off to Japan to I guess collect Han's body or whatever and chat with that Sean dude from Tokyo Drift who is just still super super boring.

Tej and Roman meet up with Dom and Brian at Han's funeral, which does not feature everyone ceremonially placing a chip on his casket which is what I would have done.  Anyway Shaw shows up at the funeral and he and Dom race each other until they get to this underground area where they basically just ram their cars into each other for some reason.  Like really is this the best way to end this fight?  I am so confused.  Shaw pulls a gun on Dom and I am worried that he is going to be in real trouble when a bunch of random armed guys show up and save the day, lead by Kurt Russell.

Kurt Russell's arrival helps transition the plot of the film from straight up revenge street racing to like a really weird episode of Person of Interest.  Apparently a terrorist caught a hacker who has basically made the machine from Person of Interest that can see in every camera and whatnot.  If Dom and his crew can recover the data and save the hacker, then Kurt Russell will allow him to use the machine to track down Shaw.  What?!  K.  Anyway the team gathers, even Letty who is pissed that nobody told her that everyone was ok since she saw that Brian's house burned down and shit.  Roman is not feeling really confident about the plan and I totally don't blame him.  He tries to suggest his own plan, which everybody scoffs at but inevitably allows.  Of course Roman's plan is completely fucking insane.

Roman's plan, which is completely fucking insane, involves all the cars on an airplane parachuting
down onto the road near the terrorist's hideout to catch the convoy of bad guys before they get the info from this hacker.  Just.. what?!  What the fuck?!  Just flying fucking cars.  What in the fucking shit was this whole scene?! Roman is scared, because OF COURSE but Tej wired up a remote switch forcing his car out of the airplane, which is completely safe, duh.  All the cars land perfectly on the ground on their wheels, all except Roman who is stuck in some kind of magical tree that can support the weight of a car.  They find the convoy of the bad guys and of course the bad guys start shooting at them with high powered guns and armor piercing rounds, and fucking turrets hidden under a bus.  Why didn't they just shoot at the convoy if they were flying in a fucking plane?  I don't even get it.  Whatever.  Brian surfs on top of a car and rescues this hacker who turns out to be a lady that both Tej and Roman totally crush on.

Meanwhile Brian is having a serious battle with Tony Jaa inside this van, which is completely preposterous.  Tony Jaa would totally kick Paul Walker's ass, this is not even a question.  We know that Brian is a former cop and street racer, but no fucking way does he have martial arts skills on par with Tony Jaa.  The fact that this battle is even close is so silly. The bus nearly goes over the edge and Brian just makes it by jumping on top of Letty's car.  Shaw shows up and starts shooting at everybody too.  Ugh that guy is just everywhere.  How the fuck does Shaw know where everybody is?  Dom meanwhile is driving hacker lady away from the rest of the group, but the terrorists are right behind him.  The lead terrorist, played by Djimon Hounsou, corners Dom right on a cliff leaving him no real options but to drive his fucking car off a cliff.  Insanity.

Everybody looks fine in nice clothes
Anyway after all that, Ramsey the hacker lady reveals that she mailed the secret plans to her friend in Abu Dabi so everybody has to take a road trip to sandy town in shiny new Bugattis.  Damn the budget for cars has gone up in this series.  Apparently Ramsey's friend sold the drive that the secret plans were on to a Jordanian prince because the secret plans with the code to create the machine from Person of Interest was contained on a zip drive with plans for a car too?  Huh?  I don't even understand this part.  Whatever.  Everybody has to get all fancy to go to this party which is pretty much an excuse to see Letty in a dress and everybody all fancy.  Roman in particular is having a really good time and wants to live in this gold palace of busty ladies.  All is not well at rich people party, though, because Ronda Rousey is there with her hijabi protection squad crew to make sure no shenanigans go on.  Spoiler alert: There are shenanigans.

What in the actual fuck?!
Dom and Brian find the car with the drive in it and basically cum all over this super awesome car because of how awesome it is.  They try to get into the system but it is taking them more time than they would have liked. Roman helps provide a distraction by being an annoying dick bag.  Tej and Ramsey are working on the tech stuff, but time runs out and Ronda Rousey and her hijabi protection squad stumble across Letty who has to fight them off.  Then Brian and Dom are required to drive the car out into the middle of the room.  Somehow Shaw is there AGAIN somehow and Brian and Dom realize this car has NO BRAKES and Dom decides to drive  OUT THE FUCKING WINDOW ON THE 500TH FLOOR OF THIS FUCKING HIGH RISE and into an adjacent building into some priceless artifacts.  MY CABBAGES!!  Then they fucking do it again with the third building.  What in the actual flying fuck?  Anyway they get the thing out of the car and roll to safety and somehow make it out of the building without being arrested while the car flies out of the building and onto the ground, thankfully not just murdering tourists on its way down.

They meet up with Mr. Nobody again and Brian gives him the drive but then he gives it right back so they can use it to find Shaw using the Person of Interest machine.  Ok but they actually played Person of Interest music while doing the whole machine thingy.  Also the guy is named Shaw.  I was getting serious PoI vibes.  Whatever.  Anyway they used the deal to track the thing.  Dom tells Mr Nobody that "My guys are racers not killers"  so only he and Brian go because they actually do murder people on occasion.  They go and confront Shaw in a warehouse but Djimon Hounsou is there to help him in an obvious trap.  Kurt Russell has magic night vision goggles to help them in this fight but he gets shot anyway.  The lose the machine to the terrorists which is probably bad.  Somehow Kurt Russell isn't dead because he has a bulletproof vest made of fucking Mithril or something.  They leave him on the side of the road and a chopper picks him up so I guess he'll be ok.

So the team meets up again and realize they better do something different because this running around shit is BS.  Tej suggests they hack the hackers but to do that they have to be in range.  They decide to lure the terrorists back to Los Angeles because they "know the town" but this seems like a really really terrible idea for a lot of reasons including, oh I dunno, innocent bystanders that the FF crew don't give a shit about I guess.  Anywho Dom goes back to his old house which was bombed if you recall, except apparently for the garage where his magical Dodge Charger was stored so of course he gets that and then gets all decked out with guns and shit because he isn't playing around anymore.  Full on revenge mode.  So the crew splits up into groups and drive around trying to get a lock on the signal when all of a sudden the terrorists show up in a helicopter and release a fucking predator drone on them which apparently NOBODY fucking cares about because there are no LAPD choppers or military in the area at all.  Brian decides to dodge the drone going old school, aka going underneath a semi truck.  This is only partially helpful though as the drone just shoots the truck releasing tubes all over the road.  MY CABBAGES!

This fight went on FOREVER
Dom and Shaw have another bro down, the drone is still chasing everybody around, Tej and Ramsey sitting there like "uploading... uploading" for about 15 minutes waiting for the damn virus to go into the system or whatever.  Then Dom and Shaw ram cars again for some reason because that is a thing they do and then decide to have a crow bar/ wrench fight.  Hobbs meanwhile is watching this shit go down on TV and decides to just Hulk out of his own cast.  What the shit?!  FINALLY some cops arrive, but no god damn chopper.  Brian faces down with Tony Jaa again and inexplicably gets the upper hand.  No, Brian.  No.  No you don't know martial arts as well as famed Muay Thai legend Tony Jaa but yet somehow you beat him.  Probably this would have been the most unrealistic thing in this movie if it did not also feature predator drones flying through LA, parachuting cars, and cars driving off of a fucking high rise building.

Anyway Hobbs steals an ambulance from the hospital and drives it right off a bridge and into the drone, destroying it.  Dom and Shaw are STILL fighting.  I don't know how long their wrench/ punching/ crow bar fight lasted but seriously it felt like 20 minutes.  FINALLY the terrorists get a little sick of Shaw and shoot right at Dom even though Shaw is in the way, causing the street to collapse and Shaw to falls to his doom/ not quite death because that would be too easy.  Hobbs comes to Dom's rescue by ripping the gun out of the drone and using it to shoot at that chopper.  Letty is in trouble, but Dom drives his car up a ramp and drops a grenade into the chopper and then lands. But he's in trouble.  He's rolling all over the place.  Brian pulls him out but he isn't breathing. They try CPR but it isn't working.  Then Letty tries to use... the POWER of LOVE!!  She says she remembers everything, including the fact that they apparently got married.  Her love magic works and Dom wakes up.  I really wish I bought their relationship a little more.  The chemistry just isn't there, but whatever, love magic.

Shaw is captured and brought to a super secret CIA detention center that looks like that place they bring bad guys on Arrow or whatever.  Then everybody has a beach party and everyone is super cute
BRB crying my eyes out
and happy.  But this whole thing is making me really sad because Paul Walker is dead.  Everybody is getting all melancholy and Dom has a voice over talking about how things are going to be different now and how Brian has this new life.  I no joke started getting really emotional about Paul Walker. This whole series has really made me like him.  I really understand why people were so upset about his death now.  As if to make the audience feel the sads even more, Brian and Dom have one last race and there is a montage of Brian and Dom together.  This is like a 10 minute In Memorium segment within the movie and I am a crying mess.  The film ends with a Dom voiceover saying "You'll always be with me and you'll always be my brother."  Then Brian's car like goes off into the sky.  Jesus I am sad.

Stray Thoughts

- So this movie had such a melancholy ending I really wish it was the ending of the series.  The audience simultaneously can believe in the fantasy that Brian is off living his life with Mia and his kids and also know that Paul Walker is dead and can never be replaced. In my mind, with the major arcs of the characters completed, there is no need to extend the series, though I do understand why they are being made.

- Having seen 7 of these movies I understand a few really important things about their popularity.  The first and most significant is that the films are dominated by actors of color from a wide range of backgrounds.  This is really important.  A film like Mad Max: Fury Road might be better technically and in a whole host of other ways, but I don't think anybody can underestimate the fact that representation is so important in cinema.  I cannot think of another long running series of films that feature majority PoC actors at all.  If you think about the staying power of, say, James Bond films, which like the FF movies vary greatly in terms of quality, you can see that the FF films, while not "good" by certain metrics are nonetheless important and worthy additions to the genre.

- The second thing I realized was that I was far more emotionally invested in the characters than I thought.  I was happy that Letty regained her memories and she and Dom got back together even though they don't have the greatest chemistry in the world. I was happy that Brian got his happy ending, and yet I was devastated by the ending when it really sunk in that Paul Walker died doing what he loved: driving fast.

- The third thing I've noticed is that as Vin Diesel has matured as an actor, and as the series has shifted to making his story more of the focus, it has really gotten stronger.  In some ways, I wonder if future installments will be even more Dom focused and less about the secondary players, which seems like the direction it is going in.  Roman is completely useless as a character now. Dom and Letty and Tej and Ramsey could probably do just fine by themselves and ditch him entirely.  With Brian gone and Dom not really having as much as an emotional investment in the rest of the crew, I could see some kind of soft reboot again with Dom and Letty finding different people to join them.  If not, if they decide to keep the original crew in tact, then I will really need to see them give more backstory to Tej and make me more emotionally invested in him and give Roman something to do other than just being an asshat.

- I didn't really notice the parts where Paul Walker's brothers replaced him w/ CGI but I don't really have a very good eye to notice those kinds of things

- I will definitely be doing write ups of further entries into the series even though I am not really sold on more movies.  As spectacularly insane as they are, I have really grown quite fond of them.

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