Ladies and gentlemen, when this blog began over two years ago, Drew Parton made a grave error: he named his column “Mindless Action Mondays.” Not only does this constrain him to posting on Mondays (a universally acknowledged sucky day), but it also meant that he would exclusively review action movies. Now, the dude likes action movies, so maybe this doesn’t bother him most of the time, but between all the good, likable action movies there about a dozen really shitty ones. The poor guy has had a rough go of it, so when a good movie does come around, you figure he has to leap on that opportunity with excitement. Drew Parton is a swell guy and a great writer, and he deserves your sympathy, because his colleagues are selfish jerks.
Furious 7 (2015)
The Plot: Hey, remember that time we launched Luke Evans through a windshield and out of a moving plane onto a concrete runway? Hey, remember that other time when he said he had a brother? Good times. Recuperating and loving life after about their third “one last job,” Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are a tad miffed when someone kills their friend Han (Sung Kang), cripples their lovable government stooge Hobbs (Dwayne The Rock Johnson), and starts making attempts on their lives. Joining forces with franchise regulars Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), and the mysterious and well-dressed Mr. Nobody (KURT RUSSELL), Toretto & Co. must take down the elder Shaw brother (Jason Statham), before he enacts vengeance for what they did to his Luke Evans. Along the way they’ll learn a little something about family, and might also save the world a few times.
The Fast and the Furious came out fourteen years ago and essentially retold the story of Point Break but with more cars. It has, since then, evolved into the greatest superhero franchise. I just can’t bring myself to get excited for Age of Ultron, but I was looking forward to Furious 7 since about twenty minutes into my first viewing of Fast and Furious 6 two years ago. It’s worth mentioning that that film was my introduction to the franchise. I have not been a fan since 2001. Something beautiful happened in Fast and Furious (the fourth installment): the focus shifted away from the cars and onto the people driving them. Fast Five took this radical notion and ran with it, bringing us not a gang of criminals, but a loving family of principled people who happen to be on the wrong side of the law. The sixth film has Dwayne Johnson fully appreciating this, and relocating our heroes into strictly good guy territory, enlisted to take down a global terrorist. And here we are now at number seven, and this time… it’s personal, but also for the greater good. Don’t you love it when those things overlap?
Of course, Furious 7 ain’t some kind of serious revenge tragedy. There’s still all the action you’d expect, a blatant disregard for the laws of physics, and a genuine sense of humor. I laughed pretty consistently through this whole movie. The humor is quippy, never cheap, and always character-specific. That’s something that Marvel’s struggled with in the past, but this franchise doesn’t need to because it knows exactly what it is, and it embraces that about itself. They know when to be funny and when to be serious, they balance goofy action spectacles with sincere character moments, and they (mostly) understand the value of a human life. I say mostly because Furious 7 falls prey to the same trend that’s running rampant through all blockbusters these days: excessive collateral damage. Unlike movies such as Man of Steel and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, though, the characters in Furious 7 seem to acknowledge the destruction they’re causing and the innocent people who get caught in the crossfire.
Now, the vast majority of these instances justify themselves by being totally fucking awesome. Interestingly, the absurdity of the action pieces, like parachuting a car onto a highway or driving through three buildings, also justifies itself by being totally fucking awesome. Gosh, I had a hard time not using that phrase in the title of this article, apt as it is. This all harkens back to the overall tone of the movie, though. The people making it believe in what they’re doing, and they do so with such affable sincerity that it’s contagious. It’s hard to say what the best moment in the whole movie is, but I was certainly a big fan of the scene when Dwayne The Rock Johnson removes his own arm cast by flexing his muscles and ripping it asunder with the sheer might of his overpowering testosterone. What an inspirational man.
I cannot very well review this film without addressing Paul Walker, who died tragically during the production. A main cast member who appeared in all but one installment, Walker became close friends with all his co-stars, especially Tyrese Gibson and Vin Diesel, the latter of whom even named his newborn after him. There are a few minor spoilers ahead, but I promise nothing significant. Obviously, with one of the main actors dying part way through, the production had to rewrite certain scenes and, what must have been even harder, write a satisfying conclusion to the character. With the aid of a cast and crew who clearly knew him well and loved him dearly, they execute this flawlessly. Accompanied by a heartfelt retrospective montage, Vin Diesel’s voiceover farewell not only struck me as an excellent real world intrusion into a fictional universe, but is, without any hyperbole, one of the best and most moving cinematic depictions the bittersweet pain of letting go of a loved one. No, seriously. It’s not even jarring when it happens. We go from that adrenaline-pumping to tears in the eyes and a lump in the throat in the span of a couple minutes without causing emotional whiplash. In that respect, Furious 7 achieved something difficult and beautiful. Best Picture 2016? I can’t speak to that, but it is, at least from the audience perspective, a perfect last ride.