Furious 7 Review
There’s a point early on in “Furious 7” where Brian O’Connor (played by the late Paul Walker) and his son Jack are getting in a car. Jack is playing with a toy car, and as he plays, he throws the car out of his seat and onto the front lawn. Brian responds with “Cars don’t fly, buddy”. This is the makers of Furious 7 trying to explain to us how cars work, but by watching the rest of the film, it’s clear they have no regards to the basic laws of physics. Cars do fly in the Fast and Furious series, and fans of the recent installments in the franchise wouldn’t have it any other way.
Has there ever been a series like this in Hollywood history? I would wager no, as the “Furious” franchise sets itself apart from the “Avengers,” “James Bonds,” and Harry Potters” of the world in its ethnically diverse, globally conscious, self-aware adrenaline rushes of mayhem and chaos. Especially in the better installments (particularly 2011’s “Fast Five” and 2013’s “Fast and Furious 6”), it’s a series that is here to blow things up and defy gravity, wicked style. There are obvious positives and subsequent negatives that come with that, but if you are walking into a “Fast and Furious” movie, you need to expect that. As long as these films are satisfying and pushing the limits of popcorn entertainment, then I am willing to forgive.
“Furious 7” is certainly the most ambitious and overstuffed installment of the franchise, finding the series at a crossroads. The untimely death of Walker back in November 2013 made this a particularly tricky film to make, so it’s a testament that “Furious 7” never feels distracted or hindered. Director James Wan and the impeccably game cast rallied around the tragedy to deliver yet another blow-by-blow master class in machismo and ridiculousness, delivering to record-breaking audiences what may be their finest and most emotionally satisfying installment yet.
“Furious 7” picks up where the sixth installment left off, with Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his misfit crew of former international outlaws trying to assimilate back into stateside life. For Dom, that means helping Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) remember their past life, for Brian that means adjusting to family life with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordanna Brewster), and for everyone else (characters played by Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, the main source of comic relief here) that means just laying low. Their chances of laying low are squandered when ghost M16 operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the brother of the main antagonist from “Furious 6”, comes looking for revenge. He murders series favorite Han, puts Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in a hospital bed, and is now coming for his revenge. The gang must reunite for one last ride in order to get their own revenge, to become the hunters as opposed to the hunted.
That’s really only the driving force of the story, as there’s much more. We of course have the whole business with shady CIA operative Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, having a ball here), who recruits Dom and his team to locate and extract a device known as “god’s eye,” which is basically everything Edward Snowden has nightmares about. There’s the secondary villain Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), who wants the god’s eye for himself and has kidnapped the creator of the device, a mysterious figure only known as Ramsey, in order to locate it. It may be the stupidest story in a “Fast and Furious” installment yet, which considering this is the series that has a landmark sequence where a giant bank safe is dragged throughout Rio di Janeiro, that’s saying something. The story is irrelevant, the dialogue is cringe worthy, the runtime excessive and the cameos and lack of continuity distracting throughout.
But the action. After about 25 minutes, “Furious 7” stops walking and begins to sprint. The film struts from one country to the next, leaving explosions, amazing hand-to-hand fights, and insane stunts (some practical, some using heavy CGI) in its swaggering path. It is action movie wish fulfillment after wish fulfillment, a film that understands escalation in spades and is able to continue topping itself. For point of reference, you know that scene in the trailer where the cars are falling out of the airplane? That’s within the first 40 minutes, and is topped only moments later by an exhilarating car chase. Wan, who takes over from series regular Justin Lin, is almost balletic in his camera movement. Everything is clear and precisely shot, with a calculated effort to deliver all the fun that comes from watching Johnson and Statham go mono-e-mono, or watching a gorgeous looking car jump from not one, but two skyscrapers.
Once “Furious 7” has blown it’s metaphorical wad with action, it settles itself for a touching finale. I’ve never found Paul Walker the best actor in the world, but his crucial role in the success of this franchise cannot be understated. The clear bond that this cast shares clearly sells the themes of family and love that the series prides itself upon. This makes the final goodbye all the more poignant; it feels less like a film and more like a eulogy. The film does an excellent job of never becoming distracted with the needed alterations because of Walker’s death, except when it becomes appropriate pay tribute. Paul Walker, we will see you again. As for the Furious franchise, if they can continue to live up to the high note this one leaves on, then strap me in for many more “last rides.”
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