Movie review: Furious 7

What Movie: Furious 7. Or Fast and Furious 7. Or Fast & Furious 7. Furiosa 7?

Why I watched it: for mockery. I mean, come on, right? But specifically because of the car drop.

I’ve seen the entire franchise: Not on your life. I’ve seen the first movie on Netflix and then, while waiting for Better Call Saul to be available from Netflix’s DVD service, I saw that this was available and jumped in.

The entire reason I watched this was a reason I would normally ignore this movie: the eye rolling dumbed down amount of stunts you’re expected to sit through without questioning the setup,  the action itself, or the consequences that may (or usually doesn’t) result. I would see the trailers for these films and groan. The Onion had a great video about the screenwriter of Fast 5 just being a 6 year old boy playing with his toy cars. How Did This Get Made and Everything Wrong With both ridiculed not just the plots but also the concept of this series.

Yet nearly everyone who mocks this series sings, loudly, high praise of the way these movies are made. Good looking crap is still crap. But people keep flocking to see the next installment. I don’t believe the characters to be identifiable, interesting, or iconic, but that’s me. I don’t have anything against the actors or actresses who appear in this. The Rock’s character is not great. The Rock himself is great. No, REALLY, he’s got charisma and (maybe it’s good film editing) he’s got some great comic timing, and I would love to see a full length movie of a character akin to the cameos he makes in Reno 911 The Movie and The Other Guys.

If you’ve seen the trailer, then you probably know that there’s a sequence where the ‘team’ is dropped out of a cargo plane.  It’s the sort of one-upsmanship that every movie in this series needs to achieve, and is ridiculous. And it’s also REAL.

No, guys, no really, they F***ING DROPPED CARS OUT OF THE SKY. For a movie.

So, I bit. Netflix mailed it to me. I watched it. I still can’t believe the sequence. It’s heavily edited, the actors were CGI’d into the dropped cars, I’m not saying I would ever believe that it could happen and the macho posturing by the cast was idiotic, but it was still an impressive action sequence. And most importantly, I could tell what was going on. Even if it was ridiculous (and it was).

Which is sad, because the rest of this movie is nonsensical. Yes, everything compared to dropping a bunch of brightly colored muscle cars out of an airplane is hard to follow and swallow.

This movie picks up where episode 6 and Tokyo Drift converge, I guess. It’s a long way from the simple (?) story of an undercover officer trying to earn the trust of street racers who might also rob moving trucks as some kind of adrenaline rush. Like Point Break, but with cars and therefore stupider.

Jason Transporter is the brother to the villain in #6 and thus seeks revenge by killing off one of the crew. So they in turn seek revenge on the guy getting revenge on them (I would just call it “self defense” but that’s not how logic in this movieverse develops).

I don’t want to get into the dynamic of the characters because Dom the truck heist master and Brian the undercover agent seems like different lifetimes. Now they’re an expert team that plays both sides of  the law, or something, but with cars. As they are introduced, Brian adjusts to fatherhood, Dom tries to reconnect with the amnesiac Letty. Then all the revenge stuff happens: Jason Transporter kills one of the Furious crew in one of the prequels as revenge for his brother getting killed or caught in the previous movie. He blows up Dom’s home, nearly singeing half the cast. This results in Dom and Brian being recruited by another super secret unofficial but still the government kinda operation. From there they are whisked away via cargo plane to…rescue some lady on a souped up tour bus.

The bus has weapons placed on it to handle the very scenario Our Team is airdropped into. There’s a kidnapped girl who is a programmer with an omnipotent macguffin device on that bus. How long it took Our Team to assemble, to outfit their cars, to fly them to an excluded road…HOW did the secret govt operation know that the bus would be there again? On that road? What’s the story with the kidnapped girl, anyway? There’s no scene of her being kidnapped (that I recall).

But, this is the least of the problems of this film, because this setup pays off. It’s stupid but it’s the exact wild ride these movies have promised that seldom lives up to the hype. The car drop is actually less ridiculous compared to the rest of the chase. The car driven by Roman is apparently caught by the one tall tree out of frame, but the action moves quickly, making you forget such a ridiculous moment. Machine guns are revealed from the bus, opening fire on & nearly incapacitating all of cars the right off the bat (all that preparation, but no contingency for the bad guys having weapons). Yet the chase continues, as Brian nearly kills everyone on the bus to rescue the kidnapped girl. The bus driver can’t stop the bus? But no, he’s killed in a 1 on 1 fight between Brian and the one good henchmen of this bunch, causing the bus to fall off a cliff for another amazing stunt.

It goes on; the chase is relentless (and, uh, impractical) but not tiring. It’s not only until the end when Dom and the rescued girl are cornered, in his car, by SUVs and Jeeps (and Jason Transporter, the guy seeking revenge while they’re trying to seek revenge on him). Dom has the girl put on a helmet and spins around to create a duststorm, and then drives off the cliff on a steep rocky incline, crashing it nearly immediately. The moment ends the action sequence. It also ruins it. After all that (REAL cars dropped from an airplane, intense chase, gravity defying escape from a bus falling off a cliff, all of it unrealistic, all of it amazing), Dom just drives off a cliff? They couldn’t have gotten THAT far away from the bad guys, either. None of them open fire? The girl is knocked unconscious, which is the only repercussion that anyone here faces, with Dom exiting the vehicle smiling at his own genius escape idea. He doesn’t even check to see if the girl is okay!

And all the while, the top secret govt. agent’s assistant are (somehow) watching the whole thing play out from afar, serving as our surrogate “what does Dom think he’s DOING?” to play up the tension, specifically for that moment. It’s like everyone BUT him, audience included, knows Dom will get out of the situation. There has to be one person who doesn’t know how awesome Dom is, and the movie had to create that person.

The rest of the movie goes downhill, regardless/because of the action sequences. And this is why I hate this franchise: the plot is just a series of setups, go here and do this and then regroup and then do the next thing. It’s like a video game, when you grind through dozens of bad guys and make your way through a winding level and get to the end. You complete that mission, and the save icon comes up and then you’re at home base waiting for the next level to start. That’s what this movie is like. Our Team breaks up a fancy party in this tower and then Dom & Brian drive a car from one building to the next and to the next, all the while Letty is getting into a vicious fight with UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.

After all this commotion, how did they get out? Dom just drove this car through a bunch of buildings. Sure, no one died, but that’s the sort of thing that requires consequences. How did they escape security? Letty slammed Ronda Rousey into a piano after getting stabbed in the leg. Where’s the blood? What, “oh they achieved their goal, so they get a free pass.” Sure, the concept of dealing with the aftermath is not as exciting as the action, but the action is so violent with so many witnesses, there has to be SOME explanation. There’s no tension or suspense in these scenes because there’s no responsibility on behalf of the good guys to at least answer for the damage they’ve done, or if there’s a cost to them, their well being, as a result for the destruction to public and private property.

Go back to the first movie. The first heist, where the yet-to-be-revealed thieves rob a moving truck full of stereos, ends with someone in the tricked out street racing cars launching a grappling hook into the truck’s empty passenger seat (good aim). Then it FADES OUT. That was IT? Where’s the truck slamming into the cars? It’s a truck. These are lawnmowers with spoilers trying to block it.

When undercover officer Brian is debriefed on the crimes, he’s told that the truck drivers are starting to arm themselves, and so the cops had better infiltrate and stop this before someone gets hurt. That’s the CONCERN, from authority: that one of the thrill seeking, rebellious, and totally cool criminals might get hurt. By their victims. 

What’s the loss or even slight risk that our Furious 7 heroes face when they embark on their journey? Sure, they have to avenge their friend who died in another movie, but from then on it’s mission regroup mission regroup final battle (a violent and disjointed spectacle that made me wonder if I was watching the same movie that featured the mountaintop car scene). No one ends up, I don’t know, sacrificing themselves for the cause. No one is in danger beyond being part of the action. No one is no longer kidnapped or has even died at the hands of their pursuers that raises the stakes for their involvement…throughout the movie.

Like I said earlier, they’re really defending themselves, but they agree to do things for the top secret agent more for revenge. (I had to remind myself: their house blew up.) I know one of the characters of the series died in part 6 and Letty was presumed dead for 4 and 5, but other than Jason Transporter blowing up the gang’s home, Brian’s GF (Dom’s sister) is out of the picture in a safehouse while they act more like a paramilitary group instead of, you know, a bunch of flaky street racers who robbed people for additional thrills.

Wow, you really liked that parachuting car bit. So what it worth watching the whole movie for that? Oh, no. There’s a lot of momentum with that mountaintop chase. Considering how brainless most if not all car chases are, that this one is so impressive says a lot about the technical knowhow the 2nd unit stunt team displayed. There’s other elements of the plot but I’ve already typed like 2000 words so any other details I’ve left out could just be described as “disjointed” or “not important.”

How stupid was the big fight in LA? Incredibly. Why I didn’t shut it off shames me. From most of the cast being chased by a helicopter alternating with scenes of Dom fighting Jason Transporter on a crumbling parking garage, I’m embarrassed that I had earlier been impressed by these  idiots dropped from an airplane in their stupid cars.

Does The Rock really cure himself of his broken arm by flexing his muscle to break off the cast? And then steals an ambulance to drive it off a bridge to crush and destroy a heavily armed drone? The answer to both questions is that this movie is awful.

So should I see this? You probably already did. This movie made a lot of money. Like one of the fastest, highest grossing movies. So, shame on all of us.

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