Furious 7 (2015)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

137 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

 

And here we are, after six films, we arrive here at Furious 7, the latest installment in the high-octane series of car action films started with The Fast and the Furious some many years back.

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In the newest adventure, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Saving Private Ryan, Guardians of the Galaxy) and his family have returned to the United States after gaining amnesty for their previous offences. As new parent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) adjusts to the simple life with wife Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Home Sweet Hell), he and Dom discover that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Transporter, Spy) is seeking vengeance on them for his comatose brother. When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, WrestleMania) is dispatched, the group realize that they need help. In comes a mysterious government agent (played by Kurt Russell, The Thing, Poseidon) who need them to find a piece of high-tech gadgetry that has been stolen by the villainous Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son). The deal is simple: retrieve the tech in exchange for cart blanche to defeat Shaw.

I really enjoyed Furious 7. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 2), known for his abilities as a horror director, supplies the film with much-needed cheese with an incredibly exhilarating experience. The returning cast has grown so close that the chemistry here is great. Diesel’s journey of reintroduction with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) is one of the better stories to come out of this series, and it ties into the franchise well. I had a lot of fun watching the banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) and Tej (Chris Bridges, New Year’s Eve, No Strings Attached). Newcomers Kurt Russell and Jason Statham provide a lot of fun to the equation. Russell’s Mr. Nobody is an interesting new character I’m excited to see further fleshed out. Statham’s Shaw comes off a bit on the cheesy side, especially with his introduction, but overall it works.

Now onto what most people are interested in hearing about: dealing with the death of Paul Walker. Did it work? Suprisingly well, actually. I expected Walker’s role to be relegated to a glorified cameo, but I was wrong. With brothers Cody and Caleb, alongside some terrific digital effects, helped to provide some resolution to Brian’s story in an appealing way. The finale of the film definitely pays tribute well with a closing musical number with a montage of Walker’s role in the franchise served to button up his story and send him off to the next place without coming off as a wasted opportunity. Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” works well here, too.

I like that Furious 7 helps tie the franchise back together with references to Toretto’s relationship with Letty before her “death” and the rarely-seen Race Wars from the original film. The best thing about this franchise is that the crew learns from previous mistakes to make the best film possible.

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Furious 7 isn’t the greatest film in the series (that honor lies with Fast Five), but it definitely takes a step in the right direction after a few missteps with Fast & Furious 6. It serves to provide closure to Paul Walker’s character and career well without sacrificing plot and sets the series up for further adventures which will continue with the upcoming Furious 8 (yeah, it’s happening).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

 

You can follow Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

Fast & Furious (2009)

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Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.

 

After the serviceable but ultimately disappointing The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Universal had two choices: kill the franchise or put everything you have into it. They chose the latter and brought back what made the series such a powerhouse. The entire principal cast of the original film was back, and with an entertaining story and the work from director Justin Lin (Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee, Annapolis) and screenwriter Chris Morgan (47 Ronin, Wanted), it was a formula that actually worked.

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When fugitive Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) loses everything that matters to him, he returns home to his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) and crosses paths with Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours), who has earned his life back as a federal agent. The two are forced to join together to take down an elusive new villain never seen and only known as Braga.

Before we get too deep here, I would like to point out that this film is more of an interquel as opposed to a straight sequel. It takes place between 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. It features a character, Han, who we see biting the dust in the previous film. I’m not entirely sure why this choice was made, but I like the idea of Han sticking around. He is a likable hero.

Having Diesel and Walker together again is action gold. These two worked very closely in crafting this sequel with the crew to make it not only worthwhile but also help build a gigantic franchise out of the fledgling series, and it works so well. There are elements of this franchise that owe a lot to this entry. The races and chases are incredible yet simple, the characters actually develop as the film progresses, and I could tell everyone is having fun here.

Director Lin and screenwriter Morgan have learned a lot about crafting a sequel and it shows. Lin’s directing has improved, giving equal time to emotional beats and car-bashing crazy, and Morgan’s screenplay is formulated to transform the franchise and its characters.

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Fast & Furious is the sequel fans deserved and it’s the one they finally got. It proved that a series can learn from previous mistakes and evolve, and it gives viewers some of the coolest action on the screen. It still holds onto the grindhousian insanity that made the first one enjoyable and continues the tradition onward.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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Director: John Singleton

Cast: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser

Screenplay: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for street racing, violence, language and some sensuality.

After Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) walked away from his role as a cop, he was forced to betray everything he knew. Now, in Miami, he’s been caught by the feds and charged with catching the villainous Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, Good Will Hunting, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire) in return for his freedom. Brian recruits former friend and law-breaker Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) to assist him in his quest.

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Paul Walker is very similar to Hugh Jackman in that he gets slightly better as the series progresses. His acting here isn’t what it will be and not as good as he could be, but still much better than anyone else here. Gibson and Hauser come off as spooflike in their cheese factor, as does Eva Mendes (Hitch, Lost River).

2 Fast 2 Furious comes off as the bastard son of the original film. There is just so much that goes wrong here. First off, the exclusion of Vin Diesel. If nothing else, it proves that Vin Diesel understands how to make a sequel because he gets the factors that work and the factors that don’t. The editing comes off as real choppy. There are freeze frames, dissolves, and all manner of dull piecework. Director John Singleton (Four Brothers, Abduction) can’t control his races. These are bland race sequences, providing nothing cool to the aesthetic of the series. In fact, did I see a green screen 15 minutes in? Seriously? In fact, Singleton doesn’t get much right here at all. He encouraged improv from a bunch of non-improv actors. Seriously.

There are some things that work here. Roman Pearce as a character has potential (though it wouldn’t be fully realized for some time). Tej, played by Chris “Lucacris” Bridges, is another character that works much better than it would have been had not been rewritten for him. It was originally written for Ja Rule to return, but he was “too big” for the role. Seeing as how the character evolved with Bridges, the audience won here and Ja Rule lost, and the music is better with Bridges. Luda!

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2 Fast 2 Furious wasn’t enough to kill this franchise, but it didn’t do much to keep it alive either. There are a plethora of problems with the action racing sequel, but it did some right. Not much, though. Not much at all.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s Shaft, click here.

[Short Film Sunday] Turbo Charged Prelude (2003)

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Director: Philip G. Atwell

Cast: Paul Walker

Screenplay: Keith Dinielli

6 mins. Not Rated.

Hey everyone, and welcome to a brand-new column I’m doing called Short Film Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest in many cultures, and what better way to do so than to review some short films. These are meant to be quick analysis on short films, which ones are worth it and which ones are not. We start today with a short created by Universal Pictures to bridge the gap between The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. It doesn’t really have a title, so we will go with the Turbo Charged Prelude.

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Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) is on the run from the cops. He broke a hell of a lot of laws by letting Dominic Toretto escape his grasp, and now he has nothing. He begins street racing for cash to keep himself out of the public eye while using the very thugs he was infiltrating to keep him out of trouble. His journey takes him to the streets of Miami where it leads right up to the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious.

This short is quite worthless to me. We see no character development for Brian which is bad since his character at the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious is quite different from the one we met at the end of The Fast and the Furious, but he seems to enjoy the fact that he has left his entire life behind him and essentially failed in every way in his previous mission. There is no internal conflict, though that can be blamed on the poor script utilizing no dialogue and quick images of events that don’t appeal whatsoever. Shame.

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The Turbo Charged Prelude is meant to bridge the films, but it does nothing that the opening on 2 Fast 2 Furious didn’t do by itself in less time. It feels like filler meant to sell DVDs, because it is. Not worth your time.

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

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Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong, Ted Levine

Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.

 

This year, we see the release of Furious 7, the latest in the series of title-jumping action car movies. Most people see the series as essential one long chase scene, but people forget how much these films have evolved in fourteen years. Let’s look back at the original film today.

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When Brian Spilner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) falls for Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Annapolis), the sister to the ferocious street racer Dominic (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick), he enters a world that he may not be able to survive within. What Dom and Mia don’t know, however, is that Brian Spilner is actually Brian O’Connor, undercover cop chasing a lead that some street racers are involved in some major electronics theft. As Brian conceals his true identity, he finds himself getting closer to the Toretto “family” of outcasts and possible outlaws.

There is a term that doesn’t get tossed around much for this film but it really deserves to be mentioned. That term is “Grindhouse.” The Fast and the Furious is fairly Grindhousian in nature. The underground “society” of racers is over-the-top in many ways as a sexier, more dangerous version of the truth. This is an exploitation piece at the most explosive level. There aren’t many films with the budget of The Fast and the Furious that it doesn’t often get associated with this genre, but it is true.

Can Rob Cohen direct the pic? Better than a lot of his other attempts. If you’ve seen The Boy Next Door, I’m sure you can see his low points. I like his stylistic choice as he tries to visual show speed on film, something he really wanted to convey with the picture.

The film is made on the shaky relationship between Brian and Mia, a gorgeous girl who exists in a dangerous world. Diesel’s Toretto is good enough to pass here, but comes off as a one-note antihero. I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, InAPPropriate Comedy) as Letty, Dom’s girlfriend who might just wear the pants in the relationship. We also get a great turn from character actor Ted Levine (TV’s Monk, Little Boy) as Sergeant Tanner, Brian’s supervising officer.

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The Fast and the Furious is a fun, albeit flawed, action spectacle that tries a lot of new things (even if some of them don’t work). You can put the story pieces together a lot faster than I would have liked, but once this film became a franchise, that was going to happen anyway. The script polishing by David Ayer helped this film a lot, but it is far from a masterpiece and far from the best in this series.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

Brick Mansions (2014)

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Director: Camille Delamarre

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA

Screenplay: Luc Besson

90 mins. Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.

 

Remakes are really not worth it.

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Brick Mansions is a remake of the earlier film District 13, and suffers from being just like everything else. It stars the late Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) in his final finished role as Damien Collier, an undercover detective in future Detroit who wishes to take down criminal kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Along the way, he meets Lino (David Belle, District 13, The Family), whose girlfriend has been taken by Alexander. The two form an unlikely partnership to take down the notorious crime boss. Also there is parkour. So yeah.

The thing that made District 13 so great was that it has a unique visual style and some great action. Brick Mansions has neither. It has a badly derived plot that seems to get lost in itself before realizing that nobody is really paying attention to it. It has Paul Walker as a lead, who can’t do much with this poorly outlined character. His dialogue wouldn’t be realistic no matter what Walker had done. David Belle just plain can’t act. Yes, he can parkour, but should that mean sacrificing a lead performer for some action? Then there is RZA. I actually like RZA for the most part, but not in this movie. He isn’t likable. He isn’t menacing. He just isn’t anything.

I know a lot of people see a movie like Brick Mansions for the action, and the fact that most of the action here is without CGI is pretty cool. What doesn’t help is constantly playing with the edit and slowing down or speeding up the action and fights so that it seems less real than it actually is. All director Camille Delamarre (The Transporter Legacy) needed to do was capture it on film, but he fiddled. He fiddled hardcore.

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This film just feels uninspired. The ending to it was so laughably stupid that I actually had to rewatch it to make sure that I didn’t miss something really grand that made the whole thing worth it. It didn’t. I didn’t have much fun watching it at all. I know it is perhaps wrong to think on an actor’s last films after they die, but you hope an actor can leave this life with something strong to cap it off. Brick Mansions was a disappointing fare, and I really hope that Furious 7 will be a strong finale to Walker’s legacy, because I liked him. I just didn’t like this.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Camille Delamarre’s Brick Mansions? Did you leap in or drop out? Let me know.

 

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