Furious 7

April 8, 2015

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It’s one of the many contradictions of the Fast and Furious franchise that it has one of the deepest memories of any film series around despite any vague recollection of previous films – style, tone, plot, world – only increases the absolute absurdity of the world that has been created in the 14 years since the original, schlocky neo-classic by Rob Cohen hit the screens with its surprisingly successful attempt to cash in on a bright and boisterous subculture.  The fact that, 7 movies in, each movie (save the third) has managed to make more money than the previous, must be some counterfactual marketing teacher’s example to their class.  Things don’t trend that way, do they?  Or maybe the age old tradition of Hollywood milking its properties until absolutely nobody cares anymore are true.  Hell, you can sort of see it happening in the Fast films, where cast members were lost quickly because it seemed below the stars’ dreams of ascendance.  But I digress.  From its beginnings as a mid-budget actioner about a fresh faced fed infiltrating a ring of minor hijackers to its current form as a series of risky, usually heist related, set pieces of an ultra elite squad of international superhumans taking on world-threatening plots, you’d think the series would desperately try to draw attention away from its original and, comparatively, minor interests. 

And yet, here is a film series that has, through happenstance, created a dense and chronologically out of order timeline where they can wheel out Lucas Black from four movies ago like we all remember the one in Japan (actually not a bad entry compared to 2).  Vin Diesel’s absence through most of the second and third movies seriously undercuts the series’ emotional core – that family matters above all else.  So what if, before his violent death after getting involved in a young, dopey America’s entry into Tokyo street racing, Han had driven a safe through the streets of Rio, made off with millions of dollars, and also blew up a gigantic plane?  It’s all of a piece with the ramshackle, ridiculously stupid and surprisingly endearing world of the biggest original franchise on the planet at the moment.

As sudsy as a soap opera and as masculine as The Rock, the series delights in its contradictions.  Bourgeoning romances dashed by tragedy or jubilant with oncoming parenthood mixed with violent games of chicken that end with the players falling out of the wreckage and then engaging in pipe-to-pipe combat, like a ‘roided up, homoerotic version of  Cronenberg’s Crash.  Empowered, beautiful female characters are simultaneously lauded for their abilities and ogled by the slow motion camera.  Jokes are made about the looks of the latest addition to the crew, Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel), a genius hacker who has created the most comprehensive spying program in the world.  The hypermasculine Adonises are mostly comprised of minorities and internationals, and yet differing sexual preferences are never mentioned or considered.  A scantily clad woman will ask if the drivers are ready, and point to Michelle Rodriguez’s now legendary Letty and say, “I know you’re ready.”

In the end the oppressed assist their oppressors by ensuring shadowy US Organisations, fronted here by Kurt Russell’s irrepressibly fun “Mr. Nobody” – playing the shadow military sector as nothing more than a better funded Boys with Toys gang – have the ability to find and spy on absolutely anyone, anywhere, at any time.  It’s such a timely MacGuffin that you’d think it was a joke, or that some last minute twist would ensure our noble outlaw/lawmen wouldn’t let anyone have such invasive technology, but no such luck.  Our heroes think outside the box to make sure it stays shut.

Not that any of this matters.  James Wan, taking over series revitalizer Justin Lin, does a fairly good job even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the fifth installment.  Cars fall out of planes – being unable to fly is a recurring motif – and then chase and chase and crash and fall.  Its better moments are well executed, though once again Hollywood fails to deliver a spectacular finale, so it relies on the Rock crashing an ambulance and firing a gatling gun.   As cars careen from one skyscraper into another, you work hard to forget that this was originally about driving just a little faster so as not to get hit by the oncoming train.  The film doesn’t let you though, especially in its final sequence.  The memorial to deceased star Paul Walker is fitting and rather emotional, although anyone unfamiliar with the real life incident or anyone presumably watching in 20 years’ time is going to wonder why the hell everyone got so serious about a guy playing with his kid on a beach.  He will be remembered by this strangest of franchises – the little engine that could and did become a behemoth without losing its charming lack of sense.  Gristled biceps and shapely bottoms will continue to buck the law to maintain its moral authority, and like the ultimate American Dream that the film series represents, it will have no internal logic or ideological sense.  But it’ll be a lot of fun.  And that’s fine.

-M

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