Full text transcript of video critique of Furious 7
How did we get here? Exactly. I’m not asking anyone to recap the continuity of the Fast and Furious movies.
Mind you, a network of plot threads at least as dense as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yet somehow even more divorced from anything resembling tactile, emotional or intellectual reality. I’m asking if anyone remembers the precise moment that snark tackler Genex film critics like myself decided to start taking this enterprise seriously. Let’s all be very clear here. Part one is bad. Part two is basically a week’s lost cousin to the bad boys movies. Three is OK, mainly because it has nothing but a fig leaf worth of connection to the others. For as dull as hell. Part five seems to be where most of the critics jumped on board all the way. But honestly, it really doesn’t turn all the way good until the very end. Part six, though. Yeah, even I’ve got to concede that was pretty great. And now part 7 is not as good as six, but still just about as much fun after thinking on this before, during and especially after my screening, a furious 7, I’ve come to at least one likely conclusion. Fast and Furious is the first movie franchise to ever successfully transition to self-parody, mostly by doing so in such a subtle after a fashion kind of way that anyone who might have been annoyed by that transition probably didn’t notice. It used to be movie geeks would joke about long franchises eventually morphing into insane action blockbusters as they went on, usually riffing on how the Rocky movies went from being this earnest, underdog Oscar movie to part four. And then suddenly he’s defending America from a Russian supervillain with a sci fi death punch power.
Hey, he thought it’d be funny if they did like Caddyshack three, where the government had Al Savic and Jack Putin team up to take down a terrorist golf tournament or something. Ha ha. Funny, but that’s what Fast and Furious actually went and did. Think about it. The first four of these movies are basically just variations on the premise of douchebags driving cool cars really fast reconstituted in different cities than the fifth is a heist movie. And then suddenly in part six, we jump over to there’s a bad guy who wants to blow up the world or something. And for some stupid reason, the best way to stop this is a strike force of characters from the previous movies because they’re good with cars. I guess let’s be very clear here. When I say this series is now parody, I don’t mean satire. I mean the very idea of actually turning Dominic Toretto and his knucklehead crew into the world saving superheroes, a generation of insecure 12 year old saw them, as in 1997, is so absurd on its face that the existence of these last two movies is a joke in and of itself. And it’s a funny one. It works. Now, some other movie series like Superman and Jaws tried to go the funny self-locking route to stay relevant once people started getting sick of them. Sure, but those series were both good beforehand, so it didn’t work fast. And Furious was already pretty dumb. So now that it’s embracing the dumb, the audience that always somehow took this nonsense seriously and folks like me who enjoy the self-parody version can enjoy it in equal measure.
But anyway, House Part seven, not bad. Not as good as the last one, mostly because it’s a repeat of the last one, but it still has lots of fun where it counts. The storyline, if you can call it that, feels like it’s aping the nobody really cares what we’re actually looking for. Mishmash of the Mission Impossible movies. It turns out that the bad guy from the last one has this crazy, resourceful one man army for a brother played by Jason Statham. And he’s out for revenge against the heroes. And apparently he’s super difficult to find because British kung fu powers, I guess. So Kurt Russell shows up as a CIA type guy who says there’s this magic find anyone on Earth computer program that the government wants. And if Dom’s team can get it for them because something about cars, I guess he’ll totally let them use it, find state them. So they’ve got to go do car stuff in the mountains to save the hacker who invented the program from Djimon Hounsou as a warlord. Then they’ve got to go get the program itself from Dubai and do the skyscraper stunt from the trailers with. Then they’ve got to fight an attack chopper and a Predator drone in Los Angeles, and at one point Ronda Rousey is there because we need someone from Michelle Rodriguez to fight. And Tony, she’s there because I don’t know. Oh, and even though we’re supposedly going through all of this because we need to find Jason Statham, it doesn’t really matter, because Jason Statham just kind of teleports in to wherever the heroes go.
So there doesn’t actually seem to be much point to all of the spy stuff. But it’s hard to complain since I just got done explaining at this point in the series, stupid is basically a feature. The point is it allows for stunts and fights and catchphrases and for Paul Walker’s tragic shooting death to be dutifully acknowledged by pumping up a subplot about his character moving on from the action hero game. And all of that works about as well as it needs to. The letdown here is that whereas part six, thrilled by taking the series to a whole other insane level, this one just sort of occupies that same level. There’s no new elevation, great stunts, great action, not complaining. I mean, I’m not sure what the next level of this nonsense would even be other than to have them. I don’t fight the Decepticons or something, but the fact is, the one thing the series cannot endure is inertia. More substantially problematic is that while franchise first timer James Wan brings more than enough fresh vision to the action, the series Secret Weapon, the characters and their chemistry just isn’t as punchy this time around, perhaps as a symptom of just repeating the last movie. Structure wise, the distinct personalities of the good guys have started to blend together. Torito has exactly the same superhuman fighting skills as the Rock’s Agent Hobs, but only when the plot needs him to did they establish before that Paul Walker and Ludacris were both kung fu masters because I missed it.
Roman is still the series comedy relief, at least until it’s inconvenient. And then he turns back into Black Torito like he was in part two. But despite that, the franchise sole remaining 100 percent sincere thematic through line, i.e. the idealization of a surrogate family bond transcending race, background and nationality still works where it counts. I mean, if you’re going to get points for anything, it might as well be for a Western produced action movie where only one out of six to eight main good guys is a Hollywood standard white dude. This series may take place in an alternate universe where driving cars pretty good makes you a goddamn superfan, but it looks a lot more like the real 21st century than a lot of other movies do. And it’s got to count for something that a major Hollywood action movie, such a big chunk of its second act in the Middle East. But the only terrorist who turns up on the plot is British. I mean, we all gave Vin Diesel a ribbing a week or two back when he said this movie should win an Oscar. Right. And we were right. But kind of for the wrong reasons when you think about it. I mean, damn right, Furious seven is an Oscar material. There’s way too much diversity in the cast. The women have complete characters and personalities under themselves. There’s no aging white dude monologuing about how relevant over the Hill actors are or young white dudes pantomiming various ailments or disabilities. I mean, jeez, what do you think Ameritech see around?
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