Richard joins NewsTalk 1010’s guest host David Cooper on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about “F9” (theatres and drive-ins), the celebrity chef documentary “Wolfgang” (Disney+) and “The Ice Road,” the the latest from the Neesonator.
Richard and CTV NewsChannel morning show host Marcia MacMillan chat up the weekend’s big releases including “F9” (theatres and drive-ins), the celebrity chef documentary “Wolfgang” (Disney+) and “The Ice Road,” the the latest from the Neesonator.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Stefan Keyes to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the loud-and-proud “F9” (theatres and drive-ins), the celebrity chef documentary “Wolfgang” (Disney+) and “The Ice Road,” the the latest from the Neesonator.
I wonder if the number in the titles of the “Fast & Furious” movies is a scale of how implausible the movie will be. Do the producers think, “Well, it’s the ninth movie so it has to be nine times wilder than the last one.” I mean, why simply have a Pontiac Fiero when you can have a Pontiac Fiero with a rocket engine strapped to the roof?
Trust me, I’m on to something here.
I was not a fan of the first batch of “F&F” films but as they’ve incrementally amped up the action, shifting into a higher gear each and every time, with no regard for sentient storytelling or the laws of gravity, I’ve developed a soft spot for Dom and the Gang.
The movies stopped making sense some time ago. How is it, exactly, that a group of gearheads became a highly trained squad of international warriors, equally at home with ignition coils and international intrigue? These movies redefine the word excessive, and yet the franchise’s commitment to auto anarchy and Vin Diesel’s raspy way with a catchphrase has caught me in its speed trap.
The latest entry, “F9,” now playing in theatres and Drive-Ins, is less a movie and more a spectacle. A loud-and-proud exercise in far-fetchery, cliches and twisted metal, it uses on the usual “F&F” staples —family, friends, fast cars and flashbacks—as a backdrop to the over-the-top action to tell a story of international espionage, an evil mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) and the broken relationship between brothers Dom (Diesel) and Jakob (John Cena).
There’s more, but fans don’t go to these movies for the storytelling. They go because director Justin Lin has eliminated most of the boring bits—i.e. when the characters speak—to distill the movie down to its sweaty essence. When the characters do talk, they don’t converse exactly, they exchange clichés, and when they aren’t speaking in a low rumble, they yell.
The result is a Kabuki car show, the latest entry in a franchise that knows no speed limit.
The beauty of the “Fast and the Furious” movies is their simplicity. The high concept of the new film can be summed up in a handful of words—a dead man’s brother seeks revenge on the Toretto gang—but fans don’t flock to the films for the story, they come to see the wild celebration of muscle cars, muscle shirts and muscle heads, and in this, “Furious 7” does not disappoint.
The new film begins with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and company (Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Jordana Brewster) finally attempting to lead normal lives back in the United States. The timely wounding of mercenary and bad guy Owen Shaw (Luke Evans)—he was gravely injured in the last film when the Mercedes G463 he was in flew out of the cargo dock of a moving plane—was the last obstacle between the “F&F” crew and peace and tranquility. Trouble is, Owen’s older brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) wants revenge. Adding intrigue to the mix is a mysterious maybe-he’s-a-good-guy-maybe-he’s-not government operative named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), beautiful hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)—“That is a woman worth falling out of a plane for,” says Roman.—and a ruthless warlord (Djimon Hounsou) who yells “Get him!” every few minutes.
That’s it. After that it’s all snappy one-liners, wild car chases, fight scenes, etc.
You might want to have your cholesterol checked after “Furious 7.” This much cheese in one serving can’t be good for you. You may also get sunburnt from the reflected glare of all the explosions. The new “F&F” movie might not be good for you, but it is two hours and twenty minutes of no-airbag fun.
It’s also a further step toward the James Bonding of the series. But not the Daniel Craig 007. “Furious 7” has more in common with the realm of the ridiculous gadget heavy Bond movies that featured exotic locations, automobile acrobatics—there’s every kind of car crash here, including a wild car chase inside a luxury apartment!—and villainous characters. Not content with just one bad guy “Furious 7” offers up two, Statham as the revenge starved brother-on-a-mission and, as back-up, the trigger happy Hounsou
It also gives the silliest of Bond stories—I’m looking at you “Moonraker”—a run for its money. The plot isn’t as much a story as it is justification to put the characters in motion. Why risk life-and-limb to get access to a computer program that will help Toretto’s clan located Shaw when he seems to pop up around every corner? It’s the thing that fuels most of the action, and it makes absolutely no sense at all. At best it is an excuse to introduce Ramsey, the picture’s Bond girl.
Not that any of that matters. Audiences don’t go to the “F&F” movies to engage their brains; they go for the crazy stunts and the cocky swagger. They go for the “vehicular warfare,” the “No way!” moments and Diesel’s rumble and mumble line delivery. Here Vin goes head to head with Statham for the title of Gravelliest Voiced Action Star, and winds up in a tie.
Subtle it ain’t but that is the beauty of these movies. They know what they are and they deliver time in and time out. From Diesel’s “unleash the beast” scenes to mano- a-car action, “Furious 7” exists in its own ecosystem where Dwayne “Daddy’s got to go to work” Johnson’s can remove a cast from his broken arm by simply flexing his oversized biceps and cars can effortlessly glide from one high rise to another.
As important as the action are the camaraderie and loyalty. “I don’t have friends,” says Dom, “ I have family,” a point nicely made in a touching coda paying tribute to star Paul Walker who died in a car accident in November 2013.
“Furious 7” is a bit long—a movie like this should be a down-and-dirty eighty-eight minutes—but it’s also a loud-and-proud crowd pleaser that never misses a chance to rev its engine.
Furious 7 has already generated its share of column inches from entertainment journalists. The cast has spent the last few weeks doing the junket rounds, talking to everyone with a microphone or a notepad, generating sound bites and stories that have fed newspapers, websites and television shows.
Star Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Letty Ortiz, spoke of getting “pretty crazy” after co-star Paul Walker’s death. “I was pushing myself to feel,” she said by way of explanation of some of her tabloid level behaviour in the last year.
Ludacris, who has played technical expert Tej Parker in four F&F films, told the Today show, “We’re about to make history as the most successful franchise of all time.”
Vin Diesel has talked about naming his daughter after his friend and co-star Walker—“ “There’s no other person that I was thinking about as I was cutting this umbilical cord.”—and made grand pronouncements about the quality of his film.
“Universal is going to have the biggest movie in history with this movie,” Diesel said, likely sounding as though he’s dragging every word through sandpaper. “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.”
He’s likely only half wrong. In 2011 he made a similar award season prediction about Fast 5 and while that didn’t pan out, the movie made a fortune, grossing north of six hundred million dollars worldwide.
He’s right to say that the new film will surely put the pedal to the metal and sell a lot of popcorn. Despite so-so reviews the Fast and Furious franchise has an EZ Pass to the box office fast lane, grossing two billion plus dollars since racing into theatres in 2001. “Just because they are for the working class doesn’t mean they’re not great,” Diesel said.
F&F fans enjoy the formula, which can be broken down to essentially this: Swagger interrupted by a snappy one liner, a wild car chase, a fight scene, repeat.
The movies aren’t Kierkegaard, and that’s one of the reasons they haven’t run out of gas yet. Over seven entries they’ve remained loud and proud, lowbrow and unashamed. They’re a wild celebration of muscle cars, muscle shirts and muscle heads. Like an engorged Hot Wheels set, the films are playthings for the directors—there have been 4 over the run of the series—who tow the company line time after time offering up a car crushing stew where sophisticated line readings and nuanced storytelling take a backseat to frenetic editing and in-your-face explosive action. They exist in a world where people only drink Budweiser and bastardizations like Bud Lime don’t exist. That purity of vision is the beauty of the series.
Sure, they change things up from time to time by adding new characters but casting The Rock or Jason Statham isn’t much of a stretch. Both have migrated from the kind of turbo charged action movies that could be considered companion pieces to the F&F films and both have the kind of poly-appeal that makes men want to be them and women want to see them.
Despite the loss of Paul Walker, you can bet Furious 7 won’t be the last movie in the series. As long as the formula works and the money continues to come in fast and furious Diesel and company won’t put these films in the rear view mirror.