Movie Review — 'Furious 7’ Blows Stuff Up Good
Posted by Ryan Sanderson on Friday, April 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM By Ryan Sanderson / April 3, 2015 Comment
this guy. I was waiting for him to look at the camera and declare, with some surprise, “I know kung-fu!”
I realize there’s no real point in nitpicking. At most preview screenings I’ve attended, security made a big to-do about putting away cell phones, often times making people leave them at the door. Here the promoters were actually encouraging tweeting from the theater just before the film began. These movies are tailor-made for an audience that is only half paying attention. The action is too big to miss. If you didn’t catch that last line, don’t worry; it will be repeated. If there has been any development over the last four entries, it’s been the slow move away from anything, be it character, story, or any sort of genuine conflict, that might make the viewer uncomfortable in any way. In that sense they’re not really movies. They’re explosion-themed wallpaper. In the series’ most self-aware moment since the random cutaways to a cockfight in Fast 4, Brian’s two-year-old son throws his toy hotrod, causing his father to explain, “Cars don’t fly.” Later, when Toretto drives out the window of a skyscraper Brian shouts the same thing. “Cars don’t fly!” And yet they do fall with style, whether they’re bursting through windows a thousand feet off the ground or dropping out of planes because their drivers are like action figures that can’t be removed from the driver’s seat. Toretto constantly talks about family and a code, and yet he would be no different from Michael Corleone in The Godfather if people died every time he put their lives in serious danger. He merely enjoys a more forgiving, likely five-year-old screenwriter. And that’s what makes these movies so aggressively, unprecedentedly, and yes, endearingly stupid. At some point they stopped caring about anything resembling good taste. Now they just trade destruction and sentimentality like a child playing with Hot Wheels. You can blow up a whole city and still care about a puppy crossing the road? Why? The better question is, why not?
And I’m tempted to believe that, like children, the filmmakers are honestly not aware of just how stupid it all really is. They really think Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) amnesia is a genuine tearjerker and not the most generic plot device ever conceived. They think including drones and computer surveillance (reduced here to basically “hacking the internet”) somehow makes their film socially important. When Toretto (who by this point might as well be named Vin D. Furious) faces off against Statham’s faceless baddie, they wield giant wrenches like swords atop a crumbling parking garage and an epic choir kicks in like this is freaking Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader. I want to believe the writer pitching this scene said something along the lines of, “The concrete is crumbling under their feet like they’re modern gods battling in the final conflict of good against evil!” and everyone else nodded with tears in their eyes. The big elephant in the room is the death of Paul Walker. The filmmakers handle this with all the tact and delicacy they bring to every other subject. Most films do their best to honor their deceased within the bounds of the film itself (see The Dark Knight's treatment of Heath Ledger or The Hunger Games' approach to Philip Seymour Hoffman). Fast 7 seems ready-made for tragedy, with a scene featuring all the leads dressed in white hugging on the beach like they’re in Tree of Life. However, they also clearly rewrote the ending to include a eulogy followed by an Oscars-style in-memoriam montage. It’s blatantly sentimental and utterly artless; the exact opposite of what you would consider good taste in most cases, and yet… Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 From Outer Space. A lot of people like to call Plan 9 the worst movie ever made, but that’s not quite right. Plan 9 doesn’t just endure because it’s bad. There are lots of bad movies. It endures because Edward D. Wood Jr., the “worst” filmmaker of all time, also happened to be sincere. He loved Lugosi as Dracula in the old Universal monster movies, just like he loved spaceships and monsters and long, idiotic speeches. You could always reduce his movies down to those three basic elements. Somehow that love carries over. In Wood’s mind, wedging sentimental footage of the actor into his film to no end whatsoever was a genuinely respectful send-off, not an instance of dancing on a grave for a cheap tear. He didn’t have the digital trickery the Furious team has to recreate the lost actor, but he had his girlfriend’s dentist hold a cape over his face. Maybe that’s why these movies have struck a chord. It’s not just that they’re big, dumb action movies. There are a lot of big, dumb action movies. Maybe these movies are so dumb they actually dumb their way past Hollywood franchise cynicism. It’s hard to argue when a series reaches such a rarified level of critical and commercial success. We’ve now spent as much time with these cars and their drivers as we did with Harry Potter and Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. That’s almost twenty hours and a hundred dollars in tickets over the last fifteen years! There has to be something there, right? Maybe these films remind us of our inner five-year-old or some hokum like that. Maybe they signal the triumph of the common man over the bourgeois forces of high culture. Maybe, to paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien, “If more of us valued muscles and fast cars and butts above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”