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Monday, April 6, 2015

Rohan Runs Down Furious 7

(Our friend Rohan Morbey was over on the West Coast these last several days, and surely deserved a better experience than he wound up having during the opening weekend of the action blockbuster Furious 7. His review, which he's generously let us cross-post here, appeared in its original form as always over at Rohan's site Closing Credits - do follow him on Twitter!

There’s one line in Furious 7 which epitomises this film and this series as a whole. It’s not the endlessly shoehorned-in mentions of ‘family’ and being ‘bros’ but a line from Ludacris, who utters the words “I can’t watch this anymore”.

My sentiments exactly.

This series, with the exception of Fast Five – which is now clearly an anomaly or sheer fluke - is the antithesis of what I look for from blockbuster action films, but my threshold is quite fair. A film like this needs to have at least one of four things: believable characters; an interesting plot in which the characters appear to belong, or, at minimum, have a tangible reason to do what they do; action sequences which build up gradually, teasing the audience that more will come without exasperating them; and lead actors who have charisma, charm, and screen presence. Furious 7 offered me nothing, but threw absolutely everything at me. The more action director James Wan shows, the less important the reasons why it’s happening become and the more the film (like Furious 6 previously) embraces its stupidity.

Looking back on the first film from 2001, it was insanely dull but at least it kept to the basic story of fast cars and heists. The central characters Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’ Conner (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) were believable doing the things they were doing (per above) despite their lack of acting talent because the film showed us a world with rules and conduct and some semblance of relationship building. Now, six films later, there are military drones blowing up half of Los Angeles and cars jumping between skyscrapers.

On the surface it might appear exciting because everything either blows up or gets destroyed, but Wan makes such little use of the locations and surrounding in favor of obvious CGI that the entire film might as well be filmed against a blue screen. At one point the action moves to Abu Dhabi, one of the most iconic cities in the world, and home to the world’s tallest building; think how the city was used by the team behind
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, who showed us a stunt we’d never seen before, plus a car chase in
adverse weather conditions special to that location. In the hands of James Wan CGI cars jump through CGI windows which could be in any tall building in the world, with no logical explanation why.

With such a huge cast of characters, everyone needs to have their screentime so we’re forced to see the talent vaccums that are Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson ‘banter’ with dialogue which could have been written on a napkin during a lunch break on the shoot of 2 Fast 2 Furious (which makes this one look like Walter Hill’s The Driver by comparison) and recycled 12 years later. Let’s not forget Michelle Rodriguez, her of the steely expression which could a melt stone if you ever believed it was real. Of course she has a girl-on-girl fight with Ronda Rousey (recognized from, and bringing back unwelcome memories of, The Expendables III), but why? The answer is because she has to have something to do.

I can see why mass audiences might like the film. There isn’t a plot strong enough to connect each scene so there’s no need to apply your brain to anything on the screen; the acting is excruciatingly poor and the film makers leave dialogue to a minimum and throw more explosions at the screen to make up for it, so it makes the money paid for the ticket seem worthwhile; the run time is nearly two hours and twenty minutes so it never seems to end, which can only mean ‘more is better’ and that giant bucket of popcorn now seems like a good investment.

However, for me this film is so stupid it bypasses fun and entertainment and goes straight into category of ‘utter crap.’ Moreover, it cements the fact that the series is to the action genre what Transformers is to sci-fi: crass, crude, dumb, and head-poundingly boring. Throwing everything at the screen does not make for an enjoyable experience, and to give this series a pass but to stomp all over Transformers is beyond me. Both are as bad as each other and both need to stop.

Then I see on Jimmy Kimmel Vin Diesel talking about this film as the first in a new trilogy... Great news for fans of mindless set pieces, uncharismatic leads, and appalling sexism.


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