Tag Archives: Fast and Furious

Film Review 2: Fast & Furious 7

Written by Michael Dequina
13.04.15
Fast&Furious7 (2)

 

It is incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible, to assess Furious Seven completely on the terms on which it was always meant to be taken: as no more than the latest gleefully overblown instalment of the surprisingly durable, nearly 15-year-old action franchise.  But as anyone is well aware, the harsh tragedy of real life upended and endangered this escapist enterprise’s existence.  As such, the proverbial elephant in the room makes for a certain morbid suspense from minute to minute over how veteran series screenwriter Chris Morgan and rookie series director James Wan not only handle the ultimate fate of the late Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner, but perhaps more importantly take care of the intermediary material left unshot at the time of the actor’s passing.  The digital compositing used to attach archival footage and images of Walker’s face and/or head onto various stand-ins’ (among them, his two real life brothers) bodies is certainly smooth and impressive on a technical level; however, less seamless are the scenes themselves, which stand out like a sore thumb by how conspicuously, oddly silent Brian is in them.  After all, when, for instance, has Brian ever passed up an opportunity to join Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) in jokingly taking shots at long-time buddy Roman (Tyrese Gibson)?  Yet that’s what he does in one obvious late-in-production scene, with Tej doing all the ribbing, punctuated by an awkwardly placed shot of a laughing Brian.

And as with most Hollywood action films, whatever passes for story comes secondary at best to those big set pieces.  The (now-) well intentioned outlaw gang of Brian, his BFF Dominic (Vin Diesel), love of Dom’s life Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman, and Tej (Brian’s wife/Dom’s sister Mia, again played by Jordana Brewster, literally stays home with the kids) is recruited by their FBI chum Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to rescue a computer genius (Nathalie Emmanuel) from a big bad (Djimon Hounsou), who has dastardly designs on her straight-out-of-Eagle Eye super-surveillance technology.

Meanwhile, the deadly older brother (Jason Statham) of the *previous* film’s big bad (a briefly returning Luke Evans) is on their tail, thirsty for revenge.  The connection of the Statham character is reflective of the sincere and rather admirable effort at a semi-coherent series continuity.  The film also finds Letty still struggling with the amnesia caused by her near-death experience in 2009’s Fast & Furious and temporary brainwashing to the dark side in Furious 6, not to mention this is the first film in the series to finally take place *after* the events of 2005’s tangentially related third instalment, Tokyo Drift, with that film’s lead, Luke Black, finally, officially (if only briefly–for now, at least) joiningFurious_Stratham-Johnson-fi the main line mythology (though Black rather unavoidably looks very much the decade older than he was in that film’s closing scene, which directly dovetails into this story about 20 minutes in).  And so goes another area where Wan picks up right where Lin left off: the ongoing growth of the already large canvas of characters.  In addition to Statham, Emmanuel, Hounsou, and Black, Ronda Rousey turns up as (what else?) a woman warrior; the great Thai martial arts movie megastar Tony Jaa makes his Hollywood debut in a mostly non-verbal evil henchman role; and even Kurt Russell comes aboard as a shady government agent type.  But just as much of a Lin hallmark was the underrated ease with which he and Morgan juggled their widening array of players.  Furious Seven was originally set to be released only a  little over a year after Furious 6, and the hastened pre-production schedule shows in how Morgan clunkily writes out characters for stretches at a time instead of keeping them plot-active while off camera.

Such a shortcoming is fairly moot, though, for when it comes down to what it initially sets out to do, Furious Seven gets the job done.  I speak not just, of course, about being one big, breezy, no-brainer popcorn spectacle, but also serving as a formal send-off to the character of Brian O’Conner and one final tribute to his portrayer, Paul Walker.  And for a series that is by its nature crass and in-your-face, and some of whose earlier instalments were marred by delusional  pretensions of pseudo-existentialist would-be profundity, the surprisingly understated, rather graceful, and altogether classy coda is probably the most outrageous–and satisfying–stunt ever pulled off in its seven-film (and certain to yet still grow) run.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson,
Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson,
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black,
Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa,
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Russell

Directed by: James Wan
Writer: Chris Morgan
Based on the Characters created by: Gary Scott Thompson

Produced by: Neal Moritz, Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell
Executive Producers: Samantha Vincent, Amanda Lewis, Chris Morgan


Fast & Furious Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fastandfuriousuk
Fast & Furious Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/FastFurious
Universal UK YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/universalpicturesuk
Universal UK Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/universalpicturesuk
Universal UK Twitter: https://twitter.com/universaluk

 

Profile of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

written by Lee Pinkerton
23/07/14

The Rock portraitHe used to be known as ‘The Rock’, but nowadays he prefers to be known by the name that his mama gave him.  Whatever you call him, its clear that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a now a major movie star.  The Forbes List of Hollywood’s top-earning actors placed him at number 2,  having earned an estimated $52 million (£30m) in the past year, mainly thanks to his work in the Fast and Furious franchise. That places him ahead of Leonardo Di Caprio, Christian Bale and Will Smith, coming second only to Robert Downey Jr.

So how did a former WWF wrestler become such a major Hollywood player?

His biography is interesting right from the start.  Dwayne Douglas Johnson was born in Hayward, California on May 2nd 1972 to Rocky Johnson and Ata Johnson. His father was one of the Black Nova Scotians –  people of African American descent whose ancestors fled Colonial America as slaves or freemen, and later settled in Nova Scotia, Canada during the 18th and early 19th centuries.   His mother, Ata, was a descendant of a Samoan chief.  (That tattoo on his chest and arm that you sometimes see in pictures, but which is usually obscured for his movie roles, is a partial Samoan pe’a tattoo).

During his high school years, Dwayne played American football and received a full scholarship from the University of Miami where he had success as a football player, but in 1995, suffered a back injury which cost him a place in the NFL. He then signed a 3 year deal with the Canadian League but left after a year to pursue a career in wrestling, which was virtually the family business.
the rock - wrestlerHis father and grandfather, and several of Johnson’s other relatives were professional wrestlers, including his uncles, Afa and Sika Anoaʻi who performed as a tag-team called the The Wild Samoans.  His maternal grandmother, Lia Maivia, was one of wrestling’s few female professional promoters, taking over Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling after her husband’s death in 1982.

Johnson made his WWF debut in 1996 as Rocky Maivia, – a combination of his father and grandfather’s ring names. He went on to become one of the major acts of the wrestling scene, and the success of Johnson’s wrestling character allowed him to cross over into mainstream pop culture. He appeared on Wyclef Jean’s 2000 single “It Doesn’t Matter” and in its music video. In 2000, he hosted Saturday Night Live and Johnson has stated the success of that episode is the reason he began receiving offers from Hollywood studios. He had guest roles on Star Trek: Voyager, as an alien wrestler that uses The Rock’s famous moves, and on That ’70s Show, as his father, Rocky Johnson.

scorpion kingJohnson’s motion picture debut was a brief appearance as The Scorpion King in the opening sequence of The Mummy Returns, and that movie’s financial success led to his first leading role, in the sequel The Scorpion King.  He was listed in the 2007 Guinness World Records as the highest-paid actor in his first starring role, receiving US$5.5 million for this movie.  After that Johnson split his time between the wrestling ring and the big screen.

 

fast 5In 2011, he appeared in the fifth film of The Fast and the Furious film series, Fast Five, as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent assigned to hunt down the series’ protagonists. Johnson landed the role after series star Vin Diesel read comments and feedback from fans who wanted to see Diesel and Johnson in a movie together.  Fast Five grossed over $86 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for a Fast & Furious film, the biggest opening for an April release, and the biggest opening for a Johnson movie.

This summer Johnson stars as Hercules the powerful son of the god king Zeus. In the movie, having endured his legendary twelve labours, Hercules, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord. It looks set to be one of the biggest hits of a blockbuster summer.

Dwayne-Johnson-Hercules

After achieving success in the field of sports, being followed by success in action movies, Johnson’s career is reminiscent of the ‘Austrian Oak’ Arnold Schwarzenegger.  How long, we wonder, before he tries his hand at politics?  Watch this space.

Hercules is released in cinemas on July 25th.

 

Lee Pinkerton