Year Released: 2015
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriquez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell
(PG-13, 140 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Action and Adventure
“Furious 7 is the best James Bond movie in 20 years…” –John Nolte
It never fails. Just when I am about to dismiss Hollywood entirely, it surprises me. I hopped on the Fast and Furious franchise at stop number 7, taking it for a drive because it seemed the only vehicle on a deserted street. And it was truly one fantastic ride filled with shock and awe – and one very large helping of cinema magic.
Different Drummer had avoided the Fast and Furious franchise because it seemed to embody the cheap and tawdry amorality of modern cinema. Weren’t these guys just glamorized thieves devoted to fast cars and faster women? Well, that may have been true in the early films – I may have to watch them now to find out – but it is definitely not true now.
I will have to credit John Nolte for piquing my interest when he wrote a piece about Furious 7 titled “The Best Bond Film in 20 Years.”
The most improbable mega-franchise in movie history launches its seventh chapter this weekend, and it is everything James Bond films used to be: insanely action-packed, exotic locales, colorful cinematography, and a never ending supply of beautiful feminine eye candy. –John Nolte
His take down of the current Daniel Craig 007 also role struck a cord:
In Daniel Craig’s fourth go-round, the world is still colorless, Bond is still working through his prissy emotional baggage, and the tone is one of oppressive brooding seriousness. –John Nolte
That’s exactly how I felt about Skyfall:
James Bond darkened, diminished, and deconstructed. Out: the suave spy who saves the world without putting a wrinkle in his elegant tux, all the while not spilling a drop of his vodka martini, the one who puts a bullet in the arch villain and then finishes him off with a killer quip. In: A dour 007 who sloshes down Heinekens suited up in his shiny best like a punk rocker out on the town. And he can’t save the world, let alone the single person he’s guarding.
In a way, Furious 7 not only competes with old 007 in in terms of remarkable stunts, glamorous locale, fast cars and hot women; it does them one better. It is actually rather wholesome, if we can say that about a film where the men wear mega guns like some extra appendage and shoot the bad guys out of the sky with gleeful abandon.
I don’t think I heard one foul word uttered in the whole film; there were no obligatory sex scenes, and religious faith and monogamy were a given, not something to be scorned. How wonderful to have someone like Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto make those virtues cool again. A lesson lost on that other Bond like film, Kingsman, whose producers seem stuck in adolescent insecurity, thinking it fashionably chic to target their audiences with explosive F bombs and at least one very lewd sexual snapshot.
Furious 7 celebrates a hyper-masculine ideal – Vin Diesel’s voice alone commands, but one that is tender and protective with his Letty (Michelle Rodriquez), who is struggling to regain her memory after an accident that seemed to have left her for dead in Furious 4. He is strong enough to let her go her own way when she needs to, his masculinity evolved from John Wayne’s comfortable chauvinism.
Darren “The Rock” Johnson wears his inked WWE super bod with quiet pride, and he adds a new dimension to fatherhood when he tells his little daughter, “Daddy’s got to go to work,” flexing his arm to shatter the cast enveloping it, and shedding his hospital gown for a flack jacket.
And the stunts – only 10 percent which are computer-generated or assisted – are mind-boggling. How far we have come from Steve McQueen’s first 1968 car chase in Bullitt that awed us back then. Or Gene Hackman’s crazy chase through New York as Popeye Doyle pursues his French Connection!
The film’s trailer gives us the highlights of that death-defying car drop from an airplane to a narrow mountaintop highway. It even teases us with Paul Walker’s narrow escape from a van teetering on the edge of cliff, but it is well worth the full admission price to see the accompanying mayhem, especially the Abu Dhabi fireworks in the sky via a red diamond-encrusted Lykan Hypersport valued at £2.3 million or $3.39 million to us Yanks.
Two hundred and thirty cars were harmed in the making of Furious 7. They were raced off ramps, parachuted from planes and driven head-first into each other. The Telegraph
Of course, in our celluloid universe, the actors all walk away from these crashes, but sadly not so in real life, as we all know from the car crash that took Paul Walker’s life in November 2013. He was at that time in the middle of filming Furious 7. How the franchise deals with his death is a testament to their craft and compassion and makes us believe Vin Diesel’s line, “I don’t have friends, I have family,” pertains to the cast in real life, too.
I won’t give away too much, but it was a class act in every way. I was reminded about the similar situation of American Sniper and the moving way it dealt with Chris Kyle’s death.
In a society that seems to be devolving, the lines between good and evil blurring more and more, it is refreshing to see a series that moves in the opposite direction toward redemption and love. Yes, it is there shining bright and true amid the carcasses of burned out buildings and shattered chassis. And somehow it is uniquely American as well.
Some of the film’s most dazzling action takes place in Abu Dhabi at an elegant penthouse party. The Etihad Towers themselves are a marvel; like some science fiction glass city rising out of the dessert. The prince’s party oozes wealth, glamor, and an underlying hint at decadence. But it isn’t the golden-coated go go girls or the fabulous buffet of epicurean delights that lure our crew to the party.
It is the shiny red Lykan Hypersport, a Middle Eastern supercar, one of only 7 models made and priced at about £2.3 million each. However, it’s not the car itself that draws them, it’s a special device hidden inside.
Too bad our boys and girls can’t really enjoy themselves here. They are too busy taking down the security system and at least one scary looking female bodyguard to partake of the feast.
Let’s cook something up for them ourselves then. Our Arabic salad is as easy to prepare as it is delicious.
Arabic Fattoush Salad
"Fattoush is one of the most well-known Middle Eastern salads and a standard dish on the 'mezza' (small dishes) table. It's a colorful tossed salad with a lemony garlic dressing, and if you've never made a single Arabic dish, this is a delicious and healthy place to start." Sonja Taha
Original recipe makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil for frying
2 small (4 inch) pita breads, torn into pieces
1 large English cucumber, finely diced
3 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed (or more to taste)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
crumbled sheep-milk feta cheese, or to taste
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place pita pieces into the skillet without crowding. Fry in batches until golden brown and blot dry with paper towels.
Combine cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and sumac in a bowl. Gently toss salad with fried pita pieces. Adjust seasonings to taste.