Vin Diesel and Paul Walker star in the turbo-charged sequel Fast & Furious 7
FAST & FURIOUS 7 (12A)
It’s not the gleaming high-octane motors, scantily clad women or outlandish gravity-defying stunts that will have audiences burning rubber to their multiplexes to see this seventh instalment of The Fast And The Furious franchise.
Instead, it’s the final screen appearance of handsome leading man Paul Walker, who died halfway through production, which will invariably guarantee supercharged box office returns for James Wan’s sleek sequel.
Fast & Furious 7 is dedicated to Walker’s memory and his unfinished scenes have been respectfully completed using previously unseen footage from earlier films, or by digitally grafting his facial features on to the bodies of his brothers, Caleb and Cody, who act as stand-ins.
The digital trickery is impressive and while the joins aren’t completely seamless, we suspend our disbelief, which is already hovering in the troposphere after the stunt team mocks the laws of physics to drive one car out of the penthouse of an Abu Dhabi skyscraper and across the void to a neighbouring tower block.
Screenwriter Chris Morgan’s desire to top the outrageous set pieces of previous films repeatedly sacrifices realism, going for broke when he hopes to persuade us that Vin Diesel, Walker and their co-stars could skydive their vehicles into position on a winding mountain road by driving cars out of an airplane and opening parachutes attached to their plummeting vehicles at the last second.
It’s an understatement when one of the characters whoops, “I can’t believe we pulled that off!”
The action begins directly after events of Fast & Furious 6 with corrupt British soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) on life support in a London hospital.
Owen’s older brother Ian (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Walker) and their crew.
Ian hacks into the computer of federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to ascertain the whereabouts of the team and doles out a near fatal pummelling to Hobbs in the process.
Meanwhile, Dominic’s crew prepare for war.
“It looks like the sins of London followed us home,” growls the bad boy, who reunites with fast-talking Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and technical wizard Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) to neutralise the threat posed by Owen with help from a hacker called Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).
Fast & Furious 7 stitches together all of the previous films including a cameo for Lucas Black as Sean Boswell from the lacklustre third chapter Tokyo Drift.
Diesel, Walker and co continue to display superhuman strength and resilience, surviving spectacular crashes with barely a graze, while Statham plies his usual brand of muscular destruction.
A heartfelt, if protracted, coda between Diesel and Walker provides the former with an opportunity to publicly say farewell to his cinematic brother in arms.
THE WATER DIVINER (15)
In front of the camera, New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe has enjoyed critical and commercial success.
He came to the fore in 1997 as a brutish detective prone to violence in LA Confidential.
Successive Oscar nominations as Best Actor for The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, including a win for Ridley Scott’s swords and sandals epic, solidified his status as a performer with emotional depth to complement his physical presence.
More recently, he embraced political corruption as a shady mayor in Broken City, sang for his supper in Les Miserables and built an ark as a tormented Noah.
For his directorial debut, Crowe casts himself as a crusading father, who will stop at nothing to locate his three fallen sons, in this fictional historical drama based on the book of the same name, which has been adapted for the big screen by Andrew Anastasios and Andrew Knight.
The Water Diviner is a solid first effort including well-choreographed scenes of conflict and self-sacrifice during the Gallipoli Campaign in late 1915.
However, his film falls victim to heavy-handed sentiment when it comes to a central romance across the cultural divide that flourishes despite a total absence of on-screen chemistry with leading lady Olga Kurylenko.
Rugged farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe) possesses a rare gift for divining water, which he uses to irrigate the sprawling property he shares with his wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) and three sons Art (Ryan Corr), Edward (James Fraser) and Henry (Ben O’Toole).
The boys head off to war and perish in the ill-fated clash with Turkish forces on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Their final resting places are unknown, like so many who fought, and Eliza is devastated.
Joshua honours a promise to his wife to bring the remains of their boys back home.
He seeks lodgings in Constantinople at a hotel run by Muslim widow Ayshe (Kurylenko) and her cherubic son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades).
Unfortunately, the military refuses to allow Joshua safe passage to Gallipoli so he ignores protocol and makes his own way to the site, where he clashes with Australian Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Hughes (Jai Courtney).
Unexpectedly, a visiting Turkish officer, Major Hassan (Yilmaz Erdogan), takes pity and pledges his assistance to reunite Joshua with his boys because “he’s the only father who came looking”.
Blessed with lustrous cinematography, The Water Diviner is a heartfelt tale of broken men and redemption.
Crowe doesn’t have to stretch himself as a father in crisis, but his character’s search for answers certainly tugs heartstrings including a devastating scene of his three boys scythed down by Turkish bullets.
The romantic subplot doesn’t work and its resolution is unintentionally hilarious but the rest of Crowe’s first foray in the director’s chair shows promise.
WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (15)
Opening with a quote from Ibsen’s play The Master Builder, While We’re Young is an acutely observed but emotionally underpowered comedy drama about a 40-something couple, who become intoxicated by the vivacity and carefree abandon of the younger generation.
Writer-director Noah Baumbach, who was Oscar nominated for his screenplay The Squid And The Whale, is well versed in the gaping chasms that separate hip techno-savvy youngsters from their parents.
Here, he elegantly subverts stereotypes by contrasting the unedifying pastimes of his world-weary protagonists, who are slaves to their smart phones and on-demand entertainment services, with the whims of two 20-something dreamers, who play board games, keep in shape at hip hop exercise classes and have re-appropriated vintage clutter as their own.
Like Baumbach’s earlier work, this occasionally spiky portrait of middle-aged malaise is peppered with polished one-liners and elicits strong performances from the ensemble cast.
Josh Srebnick (Ben Stiller) is a talented filmmaker, who cannot muster the energy or enthusiasm to complete a documentary that has consumed the past 10 years of his life.
He is stuck in a rut with his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts), who offers support when she isn’t producing the pictures of her father, the legendary director Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin).
Their best friends Marina (Maria Dizzia) and Fletcher (Adam Horowitz), who have just become parents, try in vain to convince Josh and Cornelia to bolster their happy home with a child but the Srebnicks maintain they are happy as they are.
By chance, they meet aspiring 20-something filmmaker Jamie (Adam Driver) and his kooky girlfriend Darby (Amanda Seyfried), whose lust for life is infectious.
“This is just like my record collection,” gushes Josh as he salivates over shelves of 12 inch vinyls in Jamie’s apartment, “except mine are CDs.”
Flattered by Jamie’s effusive praise for his work, Josh neglects his long-gestated feature to become a mentor to the younger filmmaker.
When Josh finally musters the courage to show his father-in-law a shambolic rough cut of his unfinished documentary, Leslie’s fair criticism cuts deep.
“You just showed me a six and a half hour film that feels seven hours too long,” observes the wily old coot.
At a trim 97 minutes, While We’re Young certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Stiller and Watts are an attractive pairing, verbally sparring with each other including a trippy shamanic vomiting ritual that culminates in an unfortunate kiss.
Driver and Seyfried embrace their roles with fervour, imbuing their bright young things with warmth and likeability.
Baumbach’s film gradually runs out of steam and a protracted final sequence at an awards ceremony doesn’t provide either the closure or crescendo that we or the characters crave.
Life is full of disappointments and in some respects, While We’re Young is one of them.