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Road To Furious 7: The Fast And The Furious

Road To Furious 7: The Fast And The Furious

Movie-Moron couldn’t let 2015 go by without celebrating the release of Episode VII – in the Fast & Furious Saga. The unlikely little mega-franchise that could has had an interesting journey, from its “Point Break with cars” origin, to the release of two sequels that were essentially spinoffs, putting the band back together for “one last ride”, and adding the secret ingredient that The Rock was cooking in another sequel. And then another. And then another. Join us as we speed down memory lane, starting with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious.

DalmatianJaws: Good afternoon!

DNWilliams: Hey.

DJ: So I watched part one and part two.

DNW: Oh no way, you’re up to 2 Fast 2 Furious? You hungry brah?

DJ: I’ve got a need for speed (and bisexual action stars). I’ve downloaded part three already!

DNW: Well alright, shall we get this show…on the road?

DJ: Let’s step on it.

DNW: First things first, I know this is your first experience with the franchise and I’m curious what your preconceived notions were. I assume you had some.

DJ: Now that I’ve watched the first two I think I might have seen the first one years ago, because a few scenes seemed familiar, but my memory was really foggy. I’ve read a lot about the series, so going in I was expecting the first four to absolutely suck and parts five and six to be a lot better. My take away from part one is that it’s actually a decent movie. It’s TRYING to be a good movie, if that makes sense. Sure, it’s silly and all, but they are definitely trying to create interesting characters and play them off of each other – it’s not just about the racing and porno shots of car parts, they actually try to go for some sort of human emotion – which surprised me and I really liked. It has character arcs, such as they are, and Vin Diesel is very empathetic in it.

DNW: I was a fan from the get go, but re-watching The Fast and the Furious for the first time in a while, I’d actually forgotten about that aspect of it, because of where the franchise is now. The emphasis at the moment is very much on the familial aspect of the ensemble, but this first movie was built around forging new relationships, which is quite a different dynamic. It’s about building trust and proving yourself.

DJ: Totally! I was surprised at how well put together the hang-out scenes were. The barbecue scene, the scene when they’re drunk and playing video games, felt real and lived in. The notion of Vin Diesel being the centre of gravity for these people is pretty unique and unexpected. I liked it a lot.

DNW: The barbecue scene is revisited down the road, it’s a recurring motif for the franchise.

DJ: It’s probably ludicrous to pull out a pretentious term for such an unpretentious movie, but the character parts have great mise-en-scène, which is just a lofty way of saying they had life to them. All of the elements work together to make the scenes more than just simply exposition or action. I’m not saying it’s high art, but I really didn’t expect to like anything aside from the car chases, and was presently surprised that all of the other stuff really worked. Paul Walker’s performance (God rest his soul) is abjectly terrible, but even he has charm. When he smiles you just melt, even if you’re a straight guy. You just like him for some reason.

DNW: Okay, with general impressions out of the way, let’s get into the story proper – the whole thing starts with state of the art home entertainment systems. State of the art at this point being TV/Video combis and DVD players, because it’s 2001.

DJ: Yeah, when I saw the Panasonic boxes I just laughed. Very dated. They’re valuable enough that it’s worth the overhead costs of grappling hooks and glowing green LEDs under all the vehicles (making them easy to identify when the cops find them).

DNW: Right after that brief establishing scene we get introduced to what some would call the real stars of the franchise: the cars. Like you said, the glowing lights make them crazy easy to track down, or at least to identify, but it’s a cool visual. The franchise has really moved away from tricked out cars, which is funny because it’s one of the things the franchise portrayed that had a significant cultural impact, from video games like Need for Speed: Underground to TV shows like Pimp My Ride. There was even a street-racing episode of Smallville that traded on the visual identity of The Fast and the Furious.

DJ: The cars definitely get a lot of screen time, and I was taken with how girly they are, it’s all about flash and bright colours and shine. It’s not an American muscle car showcase, they’re all Asian cars that zip around, not classically masculine vehicles, which actually might speak to something cultural regarding the modern male… If I ever go back to college my thesis will be on The Fast and the Furious.

DNW: Yeah, candy coloured cars, spoilers, decals, the whole shebang. That’s the thing about the first few movies, and why there was a cultural impact, they mainstreamed a subculture that was out there and just hadn’t had any cinematic exposure. No world-building necessary, it’s just all there.

DJ: Totally. That’s what I remember thinking when they were hitting the theatres. I remember them as the car culture movies, not action movies. They had action in them, but I think it’s later on when they transition into legitimate action movies in terms of genre.

DNW: Right, the franchise has morphed quite a bit, but there’s always been an action core.

DJ: Case in point – the great driving in the opening.

DNW: The opening action scene is actually quite typical: their faces are masked and they have those crossbow grappling hook thingamys, but it boils down to a small swarm of cars descending on a larger vehicle and a whole bunch of cool stuff happening as a result. Basically the franchise’s entire MO.

DJ: It’s like a tamer, glossy version of a Mad Max finale. One thing I noticed was that the action scenes are very well done, but not particularly clever. Compared with the Raiders vehicle chase (admittedly a very high bar to clear) they are incredibly simple, but well done. The stunt driving is great. I do love when the semi truck goes through the construction site and one of the cars gets stuck underneath it.

DNW: Yeah, the bit where a car starts driving under the truck is an awesome stunt that pays off later when they try to do it again and it doesn’t go so well. The action is still relatively grounded at this point too, which is not the case as of Fast Five, but we’ll come to that.

DJ: I liked the opening scene a lot, but when it was over I was like “oh, that’s it?” Even the finale was smaller than I expected, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

DNW: Yeah, so they pull off the robbery, which involved taking the windscreen off of the truck with a grappling hook and joining the driver in the seat beside him – the driver has a baseball bat to defend himself with, but it’s not enough. He got Fast’d and Furious’d.

DJ: I love the frontal approach. They pull off an intricate driving manoeuvre in full view of the other driver, who could mess it all up with a single twist of his steering wheel, but he doesn’t. He deserved what he got.

DNW: Harsh! The nightscape transitions to day, and a sour-green-skittles-coloured car pulls up. We see who’s inside, our first face of the film: Paul Walker. This was always a vehicle for Walker, but Diesel stole the show. Walker’s introduction features him racing around in this car like crazy, and there are seemingly infinite gear changes, because it’s The Fast and the Furious.

DJ: Then he stops and gets mad about something, but it’s unclear what it is.

DNW: He maxed out his car somehow, I think. It is not effectively communicated, I agree. The way it’s cut together with the following scene at the diner it reads like “dammit! I’m out here fooling around in my car when I should be eating a sandwich with Jordana Brewster!”

DJ: This scene was my first indication that the movie was going to be better than I thought it would be. Simple little things like the look Dom gives Brian are just so great. Vin Diesel is such an underrated actor.

DNW: Vin Diesel is an underrated human being. The first thing we see of him is the back of his bald head and his muscles, which seems appropriate. Then like you said, he sees Paul Walker’s Brian (who after a little banter with Jordana Brewster’s Mia orders a tuna sandwich with no crust, which should totally have become the character’s “shaken, not stirred”). They stare at each other through a window and The Great Bromance of Our Time begins. Walker is so surfer dude for this entire scene, he’s 100% in Blonde Keanu Mode.

DJ: Yep. He just lounges around in his scenes and turns on the charm. Not really a character. Whatever happened to Jordana Brewster? She’s good in this, and she’s pretty, but not the standard Hollywood vixen, which is refreshing. She feels like a girl you might actually meet and talk with.

DNW: I loved her so much in this film. I watched DEBS for her, and that was awful.

DJ: Haven’t seen DEBS.

DNW: Don’t.

Part 2 (Of 2) >

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9 Comments »

  • gd smith said

    Mise en scene usually refers to things like camera movement. lighting. mood etc. not to the life of the characters. It’s basically a fancy way of saying something about the look of a film and sometimes as a fancy way of describing a set piece. Mise en place, a cooking term referring to ingredients and preparation would fit what your saying better.

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    • dnwilliams said

      I think the point DJaws was making there is that all aspects of the production served to make the scene feel alive (and by extension the characters) in an effective, satisfying way at that point, so I don’t think the term is really misapplied. It’s a pretty vague term that’s often used to mean “all the stuff going on” anyway…

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      • gd smith said

        No it’s not that vague. It refers to the look of a film and especially in a key scene, but point taken

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    • dalmatianjaws said

      GD, historically the term is very hard to nail down, actually. While camera movement is an element at play, in all my reading that element has never stood out more than the rest. While the strict definition of the term itself might refer to the arrangement of all the elements, the widely accepted connotation is the “life” of the scene that those elements create.

      The Wiki definition is pretty close to how folks like Tarkovsky would use it, and I’d defer to that.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mise_en_sc%C3%A8ne#cite_note-1

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  • craig said

    Excited to see the movie next weekend.I’m glad Jason Statham was cast as Deckard Shaw,he does spectacular in his fight sequences and has become a really good actor.Can’t wait to see Ludacris and Tyrese,they’re always funny in these movies.Sorry about Paul Walker he will truly be missed,great actor.

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    • dnwilliams said

      Statham is the most exciting addition to the cast since The Rock, for sure. The fact that he’s the villain is the icing on the cake.

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    This is my favourite of the franchise. It’s the only one that feels remotely grounded in reality. Nowadays the series has people literally jumping and flying through the air like superman or driving out of one skyscraper to land in another. They think as long as one of the characters is apprehensive about it they can get away with any level of preposterous stunt.

    And there’s nothing wrong with podgy white guys doing research on a cool topic to make themselves feel part of it, movies need more research. I’m sure the screenwriter of 2 Fast 2 Furious did none. Sincerely, a podgy white guy.

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    • dnwilliams said

      I do miss the halcyon days of vaguely realistic F&F movies, but after Fast Five, there’s no turning back, and that movie was outstandingly…well, magical. The original is wrapped up in the most nostalgia for me, but for sheer entertainment value, I don’t think anything beats the fifth, and I’m quite pleased that’s the current blueprint for the saga, I can’t imagine them ever going back to square one with it all, unless they went the spinoff route again, a la TOKYO DRIFT.

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  • craig said

    @dnwilliams:You couldn’t have said it better about Jason Statham being the icing on the cake.That man is awesome in every way,Iv’e seen all his movies and he never disappoints,his fighting skills are second to none,just dynamic.I know Jason is going to dominate in this movie and playing the villain makes it even more exciting.You’re the man,Jason.

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