Tag Archives: Paul Walker

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

 

Film Review: Fast & Furious 7

Written by Christine Eccelston-Craig
02.04.14

 

 

Fast&Furious7 (2)
“I don’t have friends. I got family.”

These words sum up the heart and soul of the Fast & Furious franchise. Not just for the faithful team of characters on screen, but also for the band of actors, filmmakers and crew who have grown extremely close over the course of seven movies. I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed 15 years ago that the story of street racers in East L.A would’ve transformed into one of the most popular and enduring motion picture serials of all time. The tragic and unexpected death of Paul Walker in an off-set car crash during the time of filming broke many hearts. However the cast still wanted to celebrate his life in the best way; so with the help of Caleb and Cody Walker (Paul Walkers brothers), as stand-ins the movie really did come to life.

“You don’t know me. But you’re about to.”

FAST AND FURIOUS 7 One SheetFast & Furious 7 arrives as the biggest, most fulfilling Fast & Furious movie yet. It’s packed with action from start to finish! British actor Jason Statham opens as salty killer Deckard Shaw, who doesn’t seem to fear anything or anyone. As he stands by his dead brother’s bedside in what appears to be a regular hospital, the camera pans outwards only to reveal he’s slaughtered over a dozen SWAT members and shot up half of the hospitals staff, not to mention around 95% of the building is crumbling around him. His cool and composed attitude is quite sinister, as he walks away from what’s left of the collapsing building his arrogant posture really sets the tone for this character. Who better to adopt that role other than Jason Statham? He’s known for his brutality on screen in films such as The Expendables and I must say he’s done very well playing the tough guy.

With a movie full of nothing but testosterone, it’s easy to say that at first glance it’s a real “guys’ movie.” Filled with hot girls and even hotter cars the camera never fails to pan (in slow motion) over both of these key features. In addition, some of the most crucial nail biting fighting scenes I’ve ever seen takes up about ¾ of the movie but is a real pleasure to watch. Even if you are covering your eyes through most of it! That raw authenticity of the lashes and punches is something I think the audience is missing in modern day action films like these. Characters Shaw (Jason Statham) andDwayneJohnson_Furious7 Torretto (Vin Diesel) perform the best street fighting sequence in the entire franchise of the Fast movies. It’s that rugged reality of it that makes it more fascinating to watch. The ability to see them get down and dirty with bare knuckles is truly special, it’s about time more fighting scenes had this sort of realness in them. We’re missing the fear factor people!


“Double Alpha, man candy you know what I’m sayin?”
Tyrese Gibson is back as Roman Pearce, who bucks authority and again provides more of the films comedic elements. A player when it comes to the ladies, but always loyal when it comes to his team. In Fast & Furious 7 Roman pushes for more of a leadership role, however he soon realises he’s bitten off more than he can chew when his plan to rescue an elite hacker named Ramsey is actually put into action. Despite a few minor setbacks, Roman of course pulls through accompanying his team on some of the craziest car chases known to man. Launching themselves (and their cars) out of cargo planes, free-falling and then parachuting to a treacherous mountain road below only to drive across jagged, rocky surfaces and off extremely high cliffs plummeting down the steep land. Now that’s what I call living life on the edge, literally. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges reprises his role as the automotive and tech tactician who first appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious. The humorous rivalry between Tej and Roman remains intact and now extends to a beautiful girl caught in the middle of their bickering. It’s definitely like they’re back in high school, they never stop keeping it fun and entertaining for the audience. Now you get to see them act completely crazy, childish and get competitive with one another. You’ll never get tired of watching those two. I know I won’t.

“Wait! Cars don’t fly!”

Director James Wan did a fantastic job with this film having directed films such as Insidious and Annabelle, Wan took a step out of his comfort zone in order to create this movie sensation better known as Fast & Furious 7. Using his techniques of directing horror movies along with Brian Tyler’s music composition, the two manage to fuse terrifying scenes that will have you jumping out of your own skin with hard hitting violence to make you flinch and tremble. His efforts to combine horror with action did not go unnoticed as Fast & Furious 7 epitomizes all of that and then some. With this film, the whole world gets to feel a part of the family. Questions are answered and new thoughts are proposed. If it lives in the saga it’s a seed for something new and will be revisited.

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

Film Review: Brick Mansions

 

written by Michael Dequina
15/04/14

Brick Mansions

Even considering how eager Hollywood always is to remake a foreign language success, the idea of an American version of the 2004 French action thriller District 13 always seemed a bit foolish, for the key to its appeal in its native country and its cult fandom in the U.S. is directly and almost completely tied to the particular abilities of that film’s two stars, David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli.  Respectively the founder and a most skilled practitioner of the wall-climbing, roof-jumping urban athletic artform known as parkour, their gravity-defying feats in the action sequences energized and made distinctive what was otherwise a stock scenario of a forced-together mismatched pair battling baddies in a dystopian future setting.

To the credit of director Camille Delamarre, he has retained Belle for the English language remake, Brick Mansions, and the returning star delivers accordingly.  Belle proves to neither have aged in appearance nor general physicality in the last decade, nimbly navigating the walls and roofs of a derelict, dystopian Detroit in a more elaborate and explosive opening chase sequence than in the original film.  Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there.

This isn’t an issue of script faithfulness, for the ever-ubiquitous Luc Besson, who co-wrote the original, does the same (with regular collaborator Robert Mark Kamen) here, and geographical shift from Paris to Detroit aside, this film unfolds almost beat-for-beat identically.  To prevent a drug lord (RZA) from using a stolen neutron bomb, an undercover cop (Paul Walker) teams with a convict (Belle) to infiltrate the brick mansions of the title, a run-down, crime-ridden housing project community walled off from the rest of the city.

Brick-Mansions-Movie-PhotoThere are some Hollywood-ized adjustments, for better or worse but mostly inconsequential: as in the original, the crime boss holds a loved one of the Belle’s prisoner, but here it’s his girlfriend rather than sister; Besson makes the half-hearted socio-political commentary more overt; and, in a move that does work, RZA’s take on the crime boss is a far more refined and classy character unlike the original’s more conventionally thuggish type.  But a major ingredient of the original film’s parkour-powered stunts was the “tag team” element of Belle and Raffaelli displaying their abilities in tandem as well as apart.  Needless to say, with Walker, that element is lost, in its place a fair amount of what the late Fast and the Furious franchise star was best known for: fast driving, which doesn’t always fit so well with the close quarters required for Belle’s feats and fights, not to mention a concept-confined setting.

What’s left is the basic–in every sense scenario told much like it was back in ’04, which gradually fizzles out in anticlimactic fashion here much like it did a decade ago, with Belle’s balletic badassery and RZA’s amusingly eccentric criminal cooking connoisseur only going so far to enliven an underwhelming whole.

Michael Dequina
http://themoviereport.com

 

Brick Mansions, the rise of the RZA, and the art of Parkour

written by Lee Pinkerton
28/04/14

 

rzaThe RZA, aka Robert Diggs, is best known to hip-hop fans as founding member and super-producer behind the 90’s hip-hop collective The WuTang Clan.

Hip-hop magazine The Source placed him on its list of the 20 greatest producers in their twenty-year history. He also made the “Elite 8” in the search for The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time by Vibe and  NME placed him on their list of the 50 Greatest Producers Ever.

But in recent years he has been making moves in Hollywood. After supporting roles in several movies, including  American Gangster, Ghost Dog,  and Repo Men, he made his directorial debut is for the film he co-wrote and in which he plays the title role, The Man with the Iron Fists, which also starred Russell Crowe.  Set in 19th century China, the story followed a series of lone warriors who are forced to unite to defeat a common foe and save their home of Jungle Village.

This year he takes a starring role in the movie Brick Mansions playing drug king-pin Tremaine opposite Paul Walker as undercover cop Damien Collier (in his last movie role before his untimely death).

The movie is set in a dystopian Detroit, where abandoned brick mansions left from better times now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police constructed a colossal containment wall around the area to protect the rest of the city.  An undercover cop  and an ex-convict team up to defeat a deadly drug kingpin’s (RZA) plans to devastate the city.

The movie also stars David Belle as ex-covinct Lino .  As well as being an action movie star Belle is a film choreographer, stunt coordinator and the founder of Parkour, which consists of moving quickly and efficiently in any environment, using only the abilities of the human body. Belle was introduced to his acting career in a meeting with Hubert Koundé (“La Haine”).  David was then contacted by Luc Besson to co-star as lead actor with Cyril Raffaelli in the French action movie District 13, (on which Brick Mansions is based) followed by the sequel District 13: Ultimatum.

brick_mansions

The Rza and Paul Walker in a scene from Brick Mansions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Brick Mansions RZA plays Tremaine. He’s a drug lord, but considers himself a leader of the community. RZA spoke about how he got into playing the character.

“When Luc Besson wrote this character I always wondered where he got that energy from. But when I started becoming the character, I started figuring it out. Environment makes us how we are. As an actor you’ve gotta find that. I said what makes him different than his boys is that he has knowledge. He’s not the biggest, he’s not the ugliest, he’s not the typical monster. Why is he the leader? This n****’s got to be the smartest. For me as an actor, that’s where I figured him out.”

You can see the accumulated talents of Paul Walker, David Belle and the RZA when Brick Mansions is released in the UK on May 2nd.

Lee Pinkerton