Papa Do Preach
There are more money shots in Furious 7 than a dozen action flicks put together. Now, that’s pure escapist fare. One that lures the entire strata of society—from the Bourgeoisie to the Proletariat—into its make-believe world.
Seated in the middle row of a packed theater, I was witness to an infectious brouhaha that started with the front-benches and spread all the way to the balcony. From Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, and Dwayne Johnson to a Ferrari, each time a character (a stock character, of course), a sports car, a wisecrack or a money shot made an entry, an entire mass of humanity went hysterical with hoots, cries, cheers, claps, and whistles, the best of which was reserved for the late Paul Walker.
Welcome the new opium of the masses: cinema.
Of which, yours truly too is guilty as charged
But I am not writing today to criticize escapist cinematic fare. On the contrary, I grew up on a heavy dose of genre films, action being the primary genre which I thoroughly enjoyed during my adolescent years, thanks to my dad who was a diehard action, war, and crime drama addict. The flicks I watched with him became my initial fodder and piqued my interest in cinema at large.
Sometime ago, I blogged about my first cinematic experience with him, The Godfather, while today I present the yardsticks he set on how (or how not) to judge an action flick. His timeless words continue to help me decide which action flick to pick or skip.
Bang, Bang, Bang. Presenting…
Golden Rules That Maketh a Masterpiece Action Film
1) When You Shoot, Shoot, Don’t Talk
This punch line from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly followed by Ennio Morricone’s haunting score gave me goosebumps as a kid. It became an aphorism for spaghetti western, superhero franchisees, and action films to live by. Too much dialog, too less action, the pacing goes bad and audiences lose interest. Let the gun do the talking and you have a winner. After all, action speaks louder than words.
2) The Book is Always Better than the Movie
Or so you thought.
But if the movie can outsmart the book (or at least equal it), then that’s a classic. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Pierre Boulle’s The Bridge on the River Kwai, or Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne series, the list of films that outdid their respective books to be brilliantly adapted on screen is endless.
3) Star Power Matters
It did in the days of yore and, like it or not, still does.
Star power guarantees a good opening but more than that plays on the psyche of the audience.
An average action film becomes a classic merely because of certain actors (or should we call them stars). Imagine Enter the Dragon without Bruce Lee, Rambo without Stallone, Terminator 2 without Schwarzenegger, The Godfather without Brando, or Scarface without Al Pacino.
Star power in Furious 7 continues to draw crowds to become the first Hollywood film to cross Rupees 100 crores in India. Sadly, from now we’ll have to imagine Fast and Furious without its star Paul Walker.
4) Don’t Judge a Movie by Its Trailer
Please do not.
Again, take Furious 7. A mediocre trailer that looked like one more drag of a franchisee. But look at what director James Wan conjured by upholding the values of true friendship and family above all else in a flick where you least expected it.
5) Punch Lines and Wisecracks
No matter how corny, punch lines still evoke a thunderous response. Many become immortal and permanently etched in the history on filmdom. Rule #1 (above) is a much quoted punch line, and who can forget, “Hasta la vista, baby!”
6) A Sequel Can Never Live Up To Its Predecessor
But if it did, a classic was born.
Godfather II was probably one of the last good sequel that was as riveting as its predecessor. Over time, this changed. Style took over substance. Sequels, prequels, rehashes, and reboots are strategically scripted, planned, and released by studios to rake in the moolah. Just when you think the sequel is bad, they reboot the entire thing and create a new franchisee.
Thankfully there are exceptions—Rocky, Back to the Future, Terminator 2, Kill Bill 2, Furious 7 that keep the hope alive.
7) It Ain’t Over Till it’s Over
Now, this is overkill.
Who doesn’t love one last action climax? Maybe just one penultimate face-off before the final showdown. Greedy fans always want more. And if the director can pull this off with suspense, chills, and élan (read without inducing yawns), that’s an action classic.
8) Stop. Play. Repeat.
I’ve watched The Godfather a zillion times. Rocky, Die Hard, and The Bourne series reruns still keep me glued. Whereas many recent action flicks never go beyond one viewing. Recently, something as interesting as The Equalizer did not make me yearn a repeat.
Gimme my Godfather any day
9) The Big Screen Lure
Yep, if it’s a movie you didn’t watch on the big screen and wished you did. There, you have it. Your classic action blockbuster.
10) When All, or Most, of These Rules Ring True, an Action Masterpiece is Born
For me, Furious 7 is a modern day action masterpiece. It meets most of these rules. It’s so much better than its predecessors (barring the first one), that the producers should wind up the franchisee and let it R.I.P.
As the Paul Walker tribute played, I could sense a familiar presence at the aisle seat a few rows below. I went there only to realize my mind was playing tricks on me. As I walked towards the exit, I could vaguely smell the CK perfume my Dad was so fond of. It could have been anyone in the crowd. Yet, instinctively, I looked back in
the direction of the aisle seat and there he was.
Or was it his apparition?
I dwelled no further on the subject, glad with the thought that perhaps he had crossed the gulf between the past, present, and future one last time to remind me of his love for the movies, for me.
Thank you for the movies Dad and giving it to me. This one’s for you. I’ll see you again.