Life in the Fast Lane

furious-7 (1)The latest in the Fast and Furious franchise is fun and entertaining. It keeps all the elements of the past movies, and expands into new territories. It is not only a fun movie; it is a great send off to an actor who lost his life too soon.

Furious Seven is colored by the death of Paul Walker. The movies has to deal with the loss of his character Brian O’Conner while the cast and crew had to create a finished movie without one of the stars. This isn’t to mention the love and sadness the fans carry with them into the theater early trying to decide what Walker had and had not finished and prepped with tissues for the movie’s conclusion.

After killing Owen Shaw in the previous installment, his brother is out for blood. Anyone related to the team is a target starting with Han.  While Brian adapts to family life, he longs for the thrill of the chase.  Mia worries over him and wants him to stay home with the family. But any plans they had are destroyed, when a bomb is sent to Dom’s house. The team gets back together to take out Shaw so he can’t pick them off one by one.

The movie suffers from too much melodrama. Usually each movie has something a little deeper going on but viewers are wound through too many characters’ emotional stories. To be fair to the writers, this isn’t there fault. I am sure the original story was to deal with Letty’s amnesia and how she fits into the group, but when Walker died a new level of story had to be added. In order to say goodbye to his character, the writers had to find him a way out that didn’t mean death.

The movie wraps up the memorial to Walker beautifully in the final scene. I did, in fact, cry like a body shaking, paulwalkerwailing baby (well maybe not wailing). The tribute is touching and is a power ending to the film (and would have been a great ending to the franchise). Unfortunately, many viewers will try and spot what scenes Walker doesn’t actually appear in. It’s easy enough to tell, but let’s suspend disbelief and enjoys the movie as a complete whole.

Overall, it a fun, fats thrill ride. That is what is so appealing about these movies: they take us out of real life and just let you have some fun. Critics talk about how nonsensical the plot is but apparently they missed all the other installments of the franchise. Fans love the insane; no way is this possible atmosphere of this world. Plus, adding Kurt Russell is never a bad idea.

The next movie has been greenlit but I don’t know how many more I will see. This franchise was supposed to have the breakout role for Walker though Diesel got the biggest boost from them. With that in mind, it’s hard to keep it going without him. As a fan, I really don’t want it to.

In Brick Mansions

Paul Walker was best known for his work on the Fast & Furious franchise. Most fans didn’t take the time to catch his dramatic work choosing to enjoy the fast paced and fun world of street racing. Brick Mansions is in this similar vein and is extra special because this was Walker’s last completed work before his tragic death last year.

Brick Mansion takes place in the near future after the worst part of Detroit has been bricked off from the rest of the city. The government thinks that violence and crime cannot be regulated and they leave the citizens to fend for themselves. These citizens include Lino an immigrant who best talent is jacking drugs and jumping through small spaces.  He is trying to bring some justice against Tremaine Alexander the drug-selling, gun0running “leader” of Brick Mansions but this lands him in jail after his girlfriend is kidnapped. Meanwhile, Damien (Walker), a cop with a chip on his shoulder, is eager to get into Brick Mansion to seek vengeance for his father’s death and jumps at a suicide mission that is aimed at taking down Tremaine. The only catch? He must pair up with Lino who can get him around the decrepit city.

Luc Besson wrote the script based on the screen play of his French film Banlieve 13. He also brings in other collaborators. Camille Delamarre, a long time editor for the producer/director, steps into the director’s chair orchestrating jumpy fight scenes. David Belle reprised his role from the original which explains the most obviously overdubbed dialogue since Jackie Chan’s first English films. Belle, actor and stunt man does well with the fighting sequences but not the emotional aspects of acting. Delamarre is m-112bbm4328rv1jpg-e32547opposite slowing the shots down to capture the emotional aspects of the characters.

Never the less, this movie is just plain fun. While there is some philosophical ideas of race, poverty, and government the movies doesn’t focus on these. Instead, it puts the hand to hand combat at the front and watching Belle and Walker work off each other is frantic fun. It’s similar to RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fist, it may not be a great movie but viewers enjoy it and are able to get out of their reality for a couple of hours.

Would I like this movie as much is someone else (say Jason Statham) was in it? Not really. The movie works because viewers believe Walker as the character and can tell he had so much fun in making it. And, yes; there is a bitter sweet happiness to watching his final completed film. Luckily, I didn’t cry until the dedication at the end.

Brick Mansions doesn’t get overly preachy and is much better than Besson’s Three Days to Kill. If you’re an action fan or a fan of the late Walker, this is a must see for a good time.

 

 

Summer Showdown Part 2

Movies walk a fine line when using surrealism. The producers have to encourage viewers to suspend disbelief without them questioning it. Films have notoriously bombed when it didn’t understood when they crossed this line. The Lone Ranger and Furious 6 go head to head as surreal, and, therefore fun, summer flicks.

Johnny and His Horse

771313_017The Long Ranger is a decent film but overall it lacks the true “legend” of what we know as The Lone Ranger. Though Johnny Deep and Armie Hammer are fabulous together, the movie fails to bewitch viewers.

The Lone Ranger is an origins story. Hammer plays John Reid as lawyer who looks like the Western version How I Met Your Mother‘s Marshal. When he joins his brother to tail a villain (William Fichtner) it means both their deaths, but John is chosen to come back. Ostracized Native American Tonto finds the law man and helps him on his quest to take down the villain and become the man in the mask.

The film is strongest when Depp and Hammer are allowed to flex their humor muscles. Their chemistry is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s and Owen Wilson’s comradeship in Shanghai Noon. They are a hoot to watch, especially when discussing “kemo sabe” actually meant. In fact, Depp is the shining star of the movie. Tonto injects humor when the plot becomes bland and, with Silver, moves the story forward.

The movie suffers because it fails to perpetuate the legend that is the Lone Ranger. Until the conflict/resolution scene towards the end, there is nothing very mythical about the Lone Ranger. This action sequence was pure Western fantasy that delights like the old stories. We know it could never possibly be real and we love that about it. Everything that comes before plot wise is just a crappy Western with a titular character who was Mostly Dead. The audience leaves unsatisfied.

Ride or Die

fast_and_furious_6Fast & Furious 6 does not suffer from the lack of surrealism. It shines brightly as an insane action flick that is just about fun and spectacle. While some seriousness is injected into the film, the creators never lose track of what the movie was made for: blowing up fast cars.

The plot? Who the hell cares? But here’s a recap for you. Dom and Brian (or in my world Paul Walker and Vin Diesel; they have no other names) are living the high life after the heist featured in Fast Five. Brian is a father, and Dom seems happy with his new girlfriend.  They have no interest in changing the status quo when Hobbs asks for their help with a military robbery. But when they find out Letty is alive, all bets are off. The two pull together the majority of their heist team to take down the perpetrators and rescue Letty.

The film is full of the absurd action sequences fans love. Use a Mustang to anchor a tank? No problem. Bring down a military grade plane? We got this. The script contains plenty of asinine dialogue but many of them are truly funny (this is the only time I will ever profess love for Ludacris). The story gets a little heavy but then Brian arranges to go to prison one night and then ridiculousness returns. The movie is high adrenaline fun, causing exclamations of amazement and astonishment leaking from viewer’s lips at every turn.

The franchise isn’t over yet. In a year, audience will get their high octane high with a sixth entry (excuse me, seventh installment; Tokyo Drift actually happened, huh?). This is welcome as long as producers remove what makes these movies so popular. The only thing weighing them down is the producers’ wish to add B-list action stars with nominal acting talent. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve had to put up with Dwayne Johnson in the last two and now to add Jason Statham into the mix? Give me a break. Here’s what makes these movies work: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Michele Rodriguez. We don’t need anything else.

F&F6 speeds away in this competition leaving Tonto and the Lone Ranger hobbling along on Silver’s crippled legs.