Vin Diesel

REVIEW: Fast Five (2011)

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) along with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster and friend and former-FBI Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are on the run and backed into a corner. After they cross paths with a powerful Brazilian drug lord in Rio, they call in old friends to pull off one last job to buy their freedom. But all the while federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on their tail.

Following on from Fast & Furious, Fast Five continues the trend of stepping away from its street racing roots becoming a heist film and it’s all the better for it. It still has some great car racing action, but a lot of it either pushes forward the plot or is a nice character moment. It has all the usual heist tropes, but they come together with characters you’ve seen across the previous four films means which makes them extra fun and enjoyable.

Moulding characters into the roles of heist archetypes like the techy (Ludacris’s Tej), the quick talker (Tyrese Gibson’s Roman), and the social chameleon (Sung Kang’s Han) is handled really well and it feels like an extension of the characters we’ve already meant rather than a complete reinvention.

Having all these characters come together and become friends, some of which previously knew Dom before while some only knew Brian, fully cements the key theme of this franchise – family. It’s a theme that had been there from the start but really, it’s once this cast of actors and characters are finally together that you properly start to connect with that message.

Dwayne Johnson is a brilliant addition to the cast and he is a formidable foe for Walker’s Brian and Diesel’s Dom. Really, Hobbs is a combination of the two of them; he has the knowledge of the legal system of Brian, the physical strength of Dom, and is just as loyal to his team as the two of them are to their own family.

The action spectacle of Fast Five is top-notch too. There are foot chases through a favela, an opening set piece with a heist on a train, brutal fistfights, and then there’s the climax which sees a lot of destruction on the streets of Rio. All the action sequences are exciting, well-shot and easy to follow and above all, they are really fun.

Fast Five is a thrill ride from start to finish. The false starts, and not so great films that came before it, can be forgiven because this one is a fantastic blend of action, intrigue, fun and above all – likeable characters that are one big family. Fast Five really set the bar for what the rest of the franchise could be. 5/5.

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REVIEW: Fast & Furious (2009)

When reinstated FBI Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) crosses paths with fugitive Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in Los Angeles, they reluctantly put aside past differences to take down a common enemy, a drug lord known only as Braga.

Fast & Furious sees the main four characters from the first film; Dom, Brian, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) return and work together. It is great to see these characters again and the cast still has great chemistry, however the story lets them down. The script is dull, the action sequences are, for the most part, uninspired, and there’s more brooding than fun.

In hindsight, Fast & Furious lays the character groundwork for future and better films in the franchise. But that doesn’t make Fast & Furious an enjoyable film to watch. There’s the odd good moment, like when Mia says to Brian; “Maybe you’re not the good guy pretending to be the bad guy. Maybe you’re the bad guy pretending to be the good guy.” But these few interesting character moments are hard to come by.

Fast & Furious is a lot more serious than its predecessors and losing that sense of fun makes the film, and the story, a lot more generic. There’s less straight out car races in Fast & Furious but more action sequences like shootouts and foot chases, though unfortunately the only exciting sequence is the one the film opens with. The opening and first act of the movie are the most interesting as it sets up these characters we already know and it’s exciting to see where they are going. Regrettably, once you know that, the plot is very predictable, and the film loses almost all momentum.

While it’s good to have Brian and Dom back together, there’s not enough thrills nor a compelling story to make Fast & Furious stand out in either the franchise, or as an action film. To be honest, the biggest problem of Fast & Furious is that two of the main action sequences, including the finale, are set in a poorly lit tunnel where choppy editing makes things hard to follow. There’s nothing thrilling about it. 2/5.

REVIEW: The Fast and the Furious (2001)

I’ve decided that on the run up to Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw this summer, I’m going to rewatch and review all the previous Fast & Furious films. Any of the films I’ve previously reviewed, I’ll link to at the start of the new review.

Undercover LA cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) must decide where his loyalties lie when he becomes enamoured with the street racing gang he’s been sent to destroy.

Everything about The Fast and the Furious is so early 2000s it’s ridiculous – the clothes and the music make it like a miniature time capsule. But in some ways that kind of adds to the films charm especially when you look back on it as this was the foundations of an unexpected franchise juggernaut.

The Fast and the Furious is rightly known as Point Break but with cars. The undercover cop becoming close to the suspected criminals is not a unique plot but, for the most part, the film handles it well. It’s not just Brian having a romantic relationship with Mia (Jordana Brewster) that makes him questions things, it’s her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) who pulls people to him like gravity. The chemistry between the three of them, along with other members of Dom’s crew, make all the clichés work.

The car races and chases are pretty good, the with last 30 minutes of the film being truly gripping and entertaining as everything that’s been building between these characters come to ahead. The techno music that plays during one of the last chases is a bit much though.

The Fast and the Furious is a bit cheesy, with the dialogue being on the nose and the performances not always that confident, but it’s the chemistry between the leads that made these characters ones you’d want to revisit. 3/5.

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

My original review of Guardians of the Galaxy, written and posted in August 2014 can be found here.

When intergalactic terrorist Ronan (Lee Pace) threatens the galaxy, an unlikely group of heroes – all criminals of some kind – are forced to work together to stop him.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the first proper foray into space and beyond for the MCU. Each world our dubious heroes visit is its own unique place. The design of each of these worlds and their cities have so much personality and all look like real-lived in places. The special effects make space look beautiful and the whole film is full of colourful worlds, costumes and characters.

The so-called Guardians of the Galaxy are formed of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) a man who was kidnapped from Earth when he was a child and has grown up to be a thief, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) an assassin, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who takes everything literally, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) a genetically engineered racoon and Groot (Vin Diesel) a large talking tree. They are an odd mix of characters who certainly don’t get along all the time, but their dynamics are often both compelling and hilarious.

I can’t not mention the soundtrack. Music makes up a huge part of Guardians of the Galaxy and all the songs add something to the action on screen, whether it adds to the humour or to the emotion these characters are feeling. The soundtrack is just as fun as the film is.

The only thing that really lets down Guardians of the Galaxy is its villain. Ronan is your typical bad guy and forgettable one really. It’s other antagonistic characters like Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) who are more convincing adversaries as they both have history with our heroes. Also the plot itself is quite cliché but the way its executed makes it more unusual and entertaining.

Guardians of the Galaxy is so much fun. It’s really a near-perfect mix of humour, action and larger than life characters who each get their moment to shine and who forge a surprising connection. 4/5.

REVIEW: Fast & Furious 8 (2017)

When Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is seduced into the world of terrorism by the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron), his family and crew must join with old foes in order to stop him.

Fast & Furious 8 really steps it up a gear in terms of stunts and spectacle. There’s car chases on the streets of New York, a giant wrecking ball taking out cars and, of course, a submarine vs cars on ice sequence. They shouldn’t work and sometimes it’s a little chaotic to follow where everyone is but it’s best to let the adrenalin start pumping and go along for the ride.

Cipher is a very different kind of villain to what the crew has faced before. She’s almost all seeing and all-knowing thanks to her hacking skills and is powerful enough to get Dom to turn on his family for her. Most of her scenes are with Dom so it would’ve been nice to see her interact with more of the characters and see how characters like loud-mouth Roman (Tyrese Gibson) would react her.

It’s weird going into a Fast and Furious film without Paul Walker being there and they do have a reason why he and Jordana Brewster are not in the film, but the film generally still holds up with the old crew and a few new additions. There’s Eric (Scott Eastwood) Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) new protégée, who takes a while to gel and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is roped in to join the team. The conflict between him and the team is a bit hit and miss, the film quickly brushes off his history with the team (they almost killed his brother and he in turn killed one of their own and tried to kill the rest of them in the last film) and it would’ve been nice to see some more of that conflict. The one place you do feel that tension is between Shaw and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), their chemistry is great and there’s a lot of humour from them two trash talking each other.

Each member of the team has their moment to shine but in many ways, this is Dom’s film. He has the emotional beats of the film, along with (to a lesser extent) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). She, as his wife, is the most visibly torn up about his betrayal and while she does have some cringey lines, she gives a good performance.

What can I say, if you’ve seen any of the recent Fast and Furious films then you know what you’ll be getting into – a world where the laws of physics don’t apply and the main crew of street racers are more like spies or superheroes nowadays. Fast & Furious 8 continues to be a lot of fun with a thrilling finale and a lot of laughs all the way through the film – it’s mad but it works. 4/5.

J is for Judi Dench

article-2547258-1A3433D500000578-901_306x423Judi Dench is a bit of a British Legend. Probably the first films I ever saw her in was the Pierce Brosnan Bond films as the formidable M. I have no doubt that when she was first cast there was probably people going “there can’t be a female M” (as people are wont to do about casting decisions) but she sure showed them how badass and awesome a female M can be. I love how there’s subtleties to the character as the films progress which is mostly thanks to her brilliant performance.

I’ve loved a lot of her films and her performances, Philomena (2013) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) are both sweet, touching, funny and just generally great. I love the story of how Vin Diesel got Judi Dench to star in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), he sent flowers to her dressing room every night when she was in a play in London to try and persuade her to take the part. Evidentially it worked and then when they were filming he taught her how to play Dungeons and Dragons. I just love that story a lot.

And now for my other favourite Judi Dench-related story:

REVIEW: Fast & Furious 7 (2015)

fast_and_furious_7_movie_poster_1Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their family for what happened to his brother in London. In order to find Shaw before he finds them, they help government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) rescue a hacker and their device that can locate anyone on the planet.

If you know what the Fast & Furious franchise is about, you’ll know what to expect from this film. There’s the ridiculously amazing car stunts, the great team/ family dynamics and there will be some girls in skimpy outfits. It’s over the top and brilliant.

All the stunts and fight scenes are incredible and the trailer really just teases them. The sequence where the cars drop out of the plane goes on a lot longer and it’s a sequence that just keeps on giving. The various fight scenes are also great – I especially liked the one between Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Kara (Ronda Rousey).

Statham is a great addition to the Fast & Furious franchise. He is a threatening presence throughout the whole film and always manages to show up and cause problems for the team when they’re least expecting it. His character’s introduction is truly brilliant, you don’t see him do much in the way of violence but it definitely establishes him as a force to be reckoned with.

Like the previous films in the franchise, in Fast & Furious 7 each character has their time to shine. Whether that’s Roman (Tyresse Gibson) crashing a party and making it incredibly awkward, Tej (Ludacris) hacking into a high security penthouse or Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with a huge machine gun. It was great seeing so many of these characters who do feel like a family back together again.

Obviously production on Fast & Furious 7 was put on hold due to the tragic death of Paul Walker. You can tell that rewrites had to happen because in a sense it feels like two films, one with Deckard Shaw as the main bad guy and one with the secret government agent Mr. Nobody, that have been pushed into one big film. This means that some plot threads don’t always work and it would have been nice to fully concentrate on one aspect of the film but with what they had, they have made another action-packed, funny and thrilling film.

Fast & Furious 7 is a bit bittersweet really, especially if you’re a big fan of the franchise and its characters. It gives a wonderful tribute to Paul Walker and the character of Brian O’Conner that will leave just about anyone chocked up. It’s a fitting end to the film, and (possibly though probably not due to how much money it’s set to make) to the franchise as a whole. Fast & Furious 7 is big, bold and a lot of fun and is possibly even better than the last film. 4/5.