Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Top Ten Films of 2015: #7


"Furious 7" is the best installment yet of the best action franchise going.

To note that it runs perhaps 20 minutes too long is as to complain of too much chocolate (or caviar, if you prefer). Its through-the-roof box office attests to its near-universal appeal across national borders and lines of race, gender, age and class. Everybody knows by now that the series offers exceptional value for money, wall-to-wall entertainment and more fun than a day at Disneyland with FASTPASS.

Still, incoming director James Wan and a phalanx of second unit directors have taken the stunts to new and unbelievable levels. A set piece in which cars equipped with parachutes reverse out of an airplane and land on a winding road in the Caucasus mountains had me clawing at my seat with vertiginous excitement. Another, in Abu Dhabi, sees a car fly from one skyscraper penthouse to another to another. Tears of laughter streamed down my face. Anyone not having a good time during these sequences is trying not to.

The "performances" by the usual suspects are as deliciously cheesy as ever. Kurt Russell makes a welcome addition as "Mr. Nobody," a secret government agent tracking down the all-seeing "God's eye" computer chip that can instantly locate anyone on Earth. He promises Dom (Vin Diesel) that if his crew can retrieve it from the warlord Jakande (Djimon Hounsou in a thankless part), he can use it to find and kill criminal mastermind Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who slew Han (Sung Kang) in "6." Along the way, it's Tyrese Gibson's Roman who scores most of the intentional laughs as the would-be "double alpha" who's also the scaredy-cat of the group.

Surprisingly, it is the extended climax at home in Los Angeles that could have been trimmed, though it ends spectacularly. Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner figures importantly throughout the movie, and the sendoff Wan and returning writer Chris Morgan have given him is elegant in its simplicity and succinctness, with a beautifully chosen final visual metaphor. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes as the credits rolled and again the morning after. It's hard to imagine what the filmmakers can come up with for a topper, but it's unthinkable that they'd keep these beauties idling in storage.

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