Friday, April 24, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7

With a couple of days off last week to keep an eye on Ewan, I was keen to get him out of the house for a few hours. He's reached that age where all he seems to want to do it keep to himself, watching youtube videos or playing DOTA2, or occasionally both. After a couple of weeks off, I was starting to get worried he'd forgotten what the outdoors looked like, and was in danger of turning into some sort of 21st Century version of Gollum, clutching his Chromebook and muttering gaming slang to himself. So, to the movies, which involved a dangerous few minutes in the sunlight before the safety of a darkened theatre was reached, lured by Popcorn and the promise of Furious 7.

The Fast and Furious franchise has come a long way from it's street-racing Point Break knock-off beginnings, It's got increasingly over-the-top with its stunts and set-pieces, and picked up a huge ensemble of characters that flit in and out, depending on which film you're watching. It roots all of this with two main strengths; that it keeps a strong central emotional focus on the idea of "family", and a certain sense of verite with it's stunts, no matter how crazy. Its a franchise that will always be purely popcorn entertainment, but it's one that I've grown strangely fond of over the years.

So, the plot of Furious 7 is that the brother of the bad guy from the previous movie turns out to be Jason Statham, which is probably the sort of thing you should check before ruining someones criminal empire and putting them in the hospital. Statham is out for revenge against pretty much everyone else in the cast, and the movie spends it's opening few minutes setting up the cliffhanger at the end of the last film before moving forward again. Unable to find or fight him directly our heroes get roped into doing a shady mission for Kurt Russell, before being able to finally turn the tables. Along the way we have a subplot about missing memories, the duties of parenthood, and a few lessons about not ogling beautiful women because it's not right, whilst the camera has a bit of an ogle at said beautiful women, 

Actually this last point is a little odd - because one of the things the film does well is letting it's female cast stand their ground. They get fight scenes, and driving scenes, and hacking scenes, all under their own agency, and that's pretty cool (and rare). However there are a lot of shots where extras are filmed with pretty much the same loving gaze that the cars are; which is to say very admiringly, although it must be said it lacks the leering tone you often get in say, Micheal Bays "work". 

That aside, Furious 7 is proper barmy. They HALO jump a bunch of cars in this movie, people. They leap a sports car between not two but three towers of a skyscraper. The finale has cars, helicopters, computer hacking, combat drones and The Rock with a minigun in it. Jason Statham and Vin Diesel hit each other with wrenches. Everything is heightened - everything is over the top, but manages to stay rooted in the fates of the characters. It's bubblegum stuff but the amount of movies that get this wrong should tell you that it's actually hard to do. This film manages it. 

Finally, the movie ends with a sad, strange goodbye to Paul Walker, who died in a (unrelated) car accident near the end of the movie. His character gets the happy ending he deserves, but the final goodbye to that character is narrated as if he'd died - I mean, he's still married to his freinds sister, so it's not like they won't see him next week, right? - but it's heartfelt and warm, and surprisingly emotional. The series will go on, of course, and by the time we're watching it I suspect most of the events of this movie will be blurred in with memories of the events of the previous ones, just as now I can't quite remember which daft stunt was in Fast 5 or whatever. 

But this was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and I have been assured it was well worth getting out of the house for.