furious_seven

Dir: James Wan

Writer(s): Chris Morgan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Jordana Brewster, and Kurt Russell

Synopsis: Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for the death of his brother.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It’s hard to believe that a series about street racers has become so beloved and able to change itself with every film that precedes it. It’s gone from the streets of L.A to Miami, to Tokyo, back to L.A to Rio de Janeiro, then to London and Spain, and all the way back to L.A. Needless to say, the series has gone all over the globe and has connected to fans in such a way that the filmmakers want to keep upping the ante. Furious 7 continues the tradition, but at the end of the day, this installment serves as a fitting goodbye to not only a favorite and original character, but one their actors.

 

Furious 7 starts rather unusually for a Fast & Furious movie. They usually start with the main characters and a possibly car race/chase. However, Furious 7 beings by showing us Deckard Shaw (Statham) finding out about his brothers and showing just how dangerous he is, it’s a rather great opening too. Deckard then ends up in a DSS building with Hobbs to get information on the group that took out his brother Owen in Furious 6. The two get into a major brawl, which ends up with Hobbs (Dwayne) getting seriously hurt and Deckard getting away with the information he needs.

 

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We switch over to see Brian (Walker) and how he is adjusting –somewhat– to domestic life like: living in a house, taking his son Jake to school, and not dodging bullets, which he misses according to Mia (Brewster). Dom (Diesel) visits Brian and Mia, when Dom gets a phone call from Tokyo from Deckard Shaw saying he’s going to get to know him, and sets off an explosion in the Toretto home. No one gets killed, but this leads Dom to go into revenge mode and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

 

All of this leads into Hobbs telling Dom who is responsible and Dom ends up working in a government official named Mr. Nobody (Russell) promising him he can get him Deckard, only if he can get him something the government wants. Mr. Nobody puts Dom and his crew of Brian, Letty (Rodriguez), Tej (Ludacris), and Roman (Gibson) to rescue Ramsay (Emmanuel) in a great mountain side sequence (which is heavily promoted in the ads). Ramsay created something called the “God’s Eye” I won’t get too into the details behind “God’s Eye” but let’s just say it’s the NSA’s wet dream.

 

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Everyone knows that the Fast & Furious films are known for their crazy car scenes, and like I wrote earlier, Furious 7 has a good chuck of them. Obviously the cars dropping from a plane which leads to a great mountain side road sequence, you also have the car jumping from The Sky Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the great final sequence that is a bit tone down from the past final sequence like the bank vault in Fast Five and the tarmac sequence in Furious Six, but is still great to enjoy as it rolls on. There are also some pretty descent fight scenes, including one with Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey’s body guard character.

 

New director to the series, James Wan, fit perfectly into an already established franchise taking over for Justin Lin, who directed the series since Tokyo Drift. Wan does some great stuff with the camera and certain angles that are pretty unique to the series and fit right in. Wan definitely had a hard job taking over the reins from Lin, but he holds his own with the ensemble cast.

 

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The cast itself is as great as always. One of the themes in the series is Family, and that is nothing but at the forefront here. Not only as the characters, but of course, saying goodbye to Paul Walker (I’ll get to that in a bit). Walker and Vin Diesel do their usual thing, while Ludacris and Tyrese continue to play off each other very well with their comedy chops. Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty keeps going with her arc from the previous film, although here it has more of a payoff than it did in the last film. Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is great as always with his one-liners and overall manliness.

 

The new cast members also hold their own against the original cast. Jason Statham is a worthy villain to the team as a whole and is deadly in every way possible. Djimon Hounsou, who is left out of the promotional material for some reason, plays Jakande, a mercenary who has Ramsay hostage, and while it is nice to see Hounsou among the cast the character doesn’t really do much and they could have gotten anyone else. There is also Tony Jaa’s Kiet who gets into some fights with Brian – which being nitpicky for a second, I had to really suspend disbelief that Walker, and obviously no disrespect to him, could go toe-to-toe with Jaa in a fight. Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsay fits right into the cast and even has a scene essentially telling us who the members of the group are, ie: Roman being the “Joker” of the group.

 

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Finally, Kurt Russell plays government agent simply known as Mr. Nobody. Russell is a great addition to the cast and seems to be enjoying himself very well. He also has a descent amount of screen time which kind of surprised me to be honest, but it was welcomed. Also, early reports suggested that Russell’s role could lead to a bigger role in the sequel, which I can totally see.

 

There are some great surprises in the film and some revelations that really add more depth to the series and film itself. With all those revelations, Furious 7 feels like at times it is a close to the series and also open ended for another sequel (which they already sort of announced, but not really confirmed). However, Furious 7 is also a tribute and dedicated to the late Paul Walker.

 

There is a very bittersweet tribute to Walker and his character Brian at the end of the film. I won’t go into detail about it, but like I wrote, it is very bittersweet. It’s a touching and tear-jerking tribute that I’ll admit, I started to tear up watching it. Walker had completed most of the role, and going back to the family theme, Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb came in to help out, by acting as body doubles. The crew also had help with the use of CGI, which was more obvious at the end and using used footage from earlier films. It’s really hard to tell, again until the end, where they used it, so you won’t really be distracted trying to figure out if where they used it.

 

All in all, Furious 7 brings us back to the characters and world that we have fell in love with. The action is still over-the-top at times and the cast is as great as always. While the film isn’t perfect, it feels long even though it’s literally a few minutes longer than the last film. However, at the end of the day Furious 7 is a great ride to behold and the tribute to Paul Walker at the end is beautiful.

 

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R.I.P Paul Walker

 

Furious 7

4.5 out of 5

‘Brick Mansions’ Review

Dir: Camille Delamarre

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA, Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa, Robert Maillet and Carlo Rota

Synopsis: An undercover Detroit cop navigates a dangerous neighborhood that’s surrounded by a containment wall with the help of an ex-con in order to bring down a crime lord and his plot to devastate the entire city.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Mega producer and action director Luc Besson brings one of his popular French movies and of course “Americanize” it. Based on the 2004 French movie Banlieue 13 aka District B13, Besson brings back original star David Belle to play essentially the same character. Instead of a French ghetto, the movie is set in 2018 in Detroit. Brick Mansions is a section of the city where the lower class of people live and is run by drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA). When he gets hold of a bomb, the Mayor of Detroit sends in one of his best undercover cops, Damien (Walker) and teams him up with a Brick Mansions native, Lino (Belle). Once inside, Damien and Lino have their own intention of getting Tremaine.

 

Damien wants revenge for his dead father and Lino wants Tremaine gone from his neighborhood and to save his ex-girlfriend (as opposed to his sister in the original) Lola (Denis). Along with that, they have to avoid getting killed by Tremaine’s gang and his main henchmen K2 (Gouchy Boy) and Rayzah (Issa).

 

Luc Besson, who produced and wrote the first one, comes back and does the same thing here. But it’s director Camille Delamarre (who is a Besson protégé) who adds his own flare to the movie. Unfortunately, Delamarre’s decisions are wonky. There are random moments of slow motion for really no reason and random moments of special effects that almost tarnish the originality and low-level of special effects in the original. I’m not saying Banlieue 13 was a perfect movie and I hate comparing remakes to the originals in reviews, but I feel like it has to be mentioned here because there are things –like the CGI– that compared to the original, make the remake a little uninspiring.

 

The cast itself is a mixed bag. Like I mentioned, original star David Belle comes back and shows off his Parkour skills that also made the original stand out. I will admit, it was interesting to hear him pull an American accent. Belle definitely has a presence on screen and teaming up with Walker was cool to see.

 

Of course, the other leading man is the late Paul Walker (this was his last movie he completed filming before he passed away). Walker’s Damien is fueled only by revenge against Tremaine for killing his father which makes his decision to go into Brick Mansions easier. Walker brings his usual charm to the role, although at times it feels forced and unnatural which is a shame. The team up between Belle and Walker has its strong moments but comes and goes which makes it a bit frustrating.

 

RZA’s Tremaine isn’t even that interesting of a villain. There are scenes that try to make him menacing but they don’t come off that way and most of the stuff he does has been done before in more effective ways. Gouchy Boy’s K2 comes off more of a goof than menacing like the character was in the original. Ayisha Issa’s Rayzah seems more like the real villain, who has an interesting wardrobe, and spends most the time taunting Lola. Robert Maillet’s Yeti is given more to do than his original character but still goes through the motions of being another bad buy with nothing to do.

 

All in all, Brick Mansions has its moments and although the team up of Belle and Walker is nice to see, the movie doesn’t live up the original that much. If you want an action movie to fill up some time and can’t watch the original then this could be passable.

 

Brick Mansions

3 out of 5

‘Fast & Furious 6’ Review

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Dir: Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Ludacris, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky and Gina Carano

Synopsis: Hobbs has Dom and Brian reassemble their crew in order to take down a mastermind who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries. Payment? Full pardons for them all.

 

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always. If you want to comment feel free but please don’t spoil anything in the comment section.*

 

The tag line “All roads lead to this” was truly a great tag line for Fast & Furious 6. Faced with the task of trying to top Fast Five (which is easier said than done), Furious 6 (as the movie is titled in the opening credits) offers a more international feel and some mind-boggling car stunts even as its story strives to bring the characters full circle while also setting up future installments (which is currently being worked on). But does it actually do that? Yes, yes it does.

Furious 6 finds our favorite street racers and thieves (Diesel, Walker, Tyrese, Ludacris, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot) having to team up with the man that tried to bring them down before Hobbs (Johnson). Hobbs brings them in to track down an even worse criminal: former British Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw (Evans), who is pulling off a series of auto-centric crimes that are more dangerous and thought-out than our good guys.

Hobbs mentally is like the old saying “it takes a thief to catch a thief.” But the only reason Hobbs has any leverage is the return of the presumably dead Letty (Rodriguez) and the fact that she is for whatever reason working for Shaw. The team agrees to work with Hobbs and his new partner Riley (Gina Carano) only if they get full pardons so they can return home to the U.S). Fast paced actions then ensues.

While many think the Fast and the Furious franchise is all about ridiculous car chases, stunts, and cheesy one-liners (although it sometimes is) one of the prime focuses is the family aspect, which will get to in a minute. However, Fast & Furious 6 primary focus is on the past and bringing the characters’ stories full circle. Letty’s not the only blast from the past here (I won’t say who else returns), but these callbacks should definitely please those who’ve been fans of the series since the beginning. That’s not to say Furious 6 doesn’t also have the future on its mind. Some characters’ arcs reach their conclusion, while big seeds are also planted for what might come next for the rest.

Of course the highlight of the franchise is the car scenes. Fast Five really made it hard for the filmmakers to make whatever set-pieces they had in this movie a bit tough to surpass. However they did succeed with some of the big chases like the tank sequence and the takedown of the plane. Even the first chase that introduces a new car that Shaw drives and we briefly see in the trailer is pretty damn impressive. Although I wouldn’t put it pass anybody that thinks the car chases get a little redundant. One sequence in particular is like that. There is of course humor in the movie which is always nice although some of the jokes fall a bit flat.

As for the cast, they all do a great job although after playing the characters for so long you would think they would. Diesel and Walker being the faces of the franchise still have the strong chemistry they had in the first movie. Although you really can say this movie is all about Diesel’s Dom and him trying to bring back Letty. Speaking of Letty, Rodriguez is nice to have back and is still tougher than she was before they “killed” her. Ludacris, Tyrese, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot all have their moments to shine and Jordana Brewster again doesn’t really have much to do, although this time it’s for a descent reason. Johnson of course shows off more of his muscles and with a future spin-off in the works I’m glad there stretching out his character more.

As for Luke Evans as Shaw, he is really a threat the team has never faced before. He’s not afraid for putting people at risk to get what he wants and isn’t afraid to expose somebody’s weakness so he can get ahead. Finally, director Justin Lin. Lin has already said he’s leaving the franchise due to being a bit burnt out and a fast production date for part seven. Lin has done an amazing job in the movie and has made us care about this characters. He made the family dynamic as important as the crazy car chases and has fleshed out this characters that may have been just one dimensional if another director was bought in.

All in all, who knew the Fast and the Furious franchise would have six movies under its belt and have been getting better as they continued. Does the movie have some over the top moments? Yes, a car comes out of a plane damn it! But, lets be realistic here, it’s an action movie. Would you really want it any other way?

Lastly, stay a little while after the first part of the credits. It’s a nice little surprise and totally worth it.

Fast & Furious 6

5 out of 5