Furious 7 – A Review

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As loyal readers know, I am a recent convert to the Fast & Furious franchise. I watched the first six movies within a week of each other to get myself up to speed (pun intended) and unsurprisingly, I started digging these movies a lot more once they became straight up action movies that just so happened to be about cars and when The Rock appeared. He is, after all, franchise Viagra. Since Fast Five, I think that the films have gotten progressively better and the news that Jason Statham would appear in Furious 7 was cause for celebration. Furious 7 was probably the most I’ve been looking forward to any of these movies, which isn’t necessarily a ringing endorsement, but probably the most praise I’m ever going to heap on these movies, which are big and loud and ridiculous, but also fairly entertaining.

My enthusiasm dipped, however, with Paul Walker’s untimely passing during the filming of the movie. I was sincerely hoping that they would work around his absence in a tasteful manner and that it wouldn’t be too much for the movie to overcome. Given the way that he died, I also wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy a film where his life is routinely in peril behind the wheel of a fast car. What I like about these movies is that they are mindless fun and escapism; I wasn’t sure if the large specter of reality would cast too dark a shadow over the franchise and take away my overall enjoyment.

The good news is that while it was a little difficult for me to fully enjoy some of the scenes, Walker’s passing did not prevent me from still having a lot of fun watching Furious 7. I think that they did the best possible job working around his absence and provided his character with a fitting send-off and tribute. It helped that there was so much craziness going on in this film that there wasn’t a lot of time to sit and dwell over anything; they may have dropped “Fast” from the title, but not from the actual movie. Furious 7 accelerates the action and rarely slows down. It may only just beginning to feel like spring, but summer movie season has officially arrived.

The weird chronology of the franchise means that the events of Furious 7 come after the events of The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the closest thing to a full on abomination that the series has released. Seriously, I still have PTSD after sitting through that nonsense. The body count from Fast & Furious 6 and Tokyo Drift have depleted the ranks of Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) “family.” The crew is now pretty lean – Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludicris) and Mia (Jordana Brewster), who has been mostly marginalized from the franchise while she’s home having Brian’s babies (no great loss). Hobbs (The Rock) is kind of an unofficial member of the group; he’s a friend that hasn’t quite reached “family” status. The group discovers that they are being hunted by Ian Shaw (Jason Statham), the meaner and more deadly brother of a man that the crew tangled with in Furious 6. I had absolutely no memory of the bad guy from Furious 6, so I had to take all of this on faith. I actually don’t remember much plot-wise from a lot of these movies; they are kind of disposable entertainment to me in that twenty minutes after I’ve seen them, I’d be hard pressed to tell you much that actually happened it them. In order to get to Shaw, the group hooks up with a covert military organization that is headed up by Kurt Russell and who needs Dom and company to save a hacker who has been kidnapped. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter – it’s just a reason for all sorts of insane stunts and fights. Ronda Rousey also turns up, because why the hell not at this point.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for the film, you know that the stunts in Furious 7 have been taken up another notch. They’ve participated in some gravity-defying shenanigans in the past, but this film may have the most over-the-top sequences of the entire franchise. Once you have cars parachuting out of an airplane and cars jumping between buildings, all bets are kind of off. I didn’t do particularly well in physics when I took that back in high school, but I’m pretty sure that none of what they pull of is even remotely realistic from a logistical and laws of the universe standpoint. That doesn’t really matter though; it’s just very exciting and executed so well that I was willing to suspend all disbelief and just go with it. I can appreciate a well pulled-off stunt just like anyone else and in general if you thinking a lot during these movies, you’re doing it wrong.

Beyond the vehicular acrobatics, Furious 7 also features a lot of great mano a mano fight sequences. It doesn’t take very long into the film before The Rock and Statham are brought to fisticuffs and it’s pretty great. They use some crazy camera angles and it’s all very intense and thrilling. Paul Walker gets to throw down as well and Michelle Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey tangle as well. And of course, you can’t have Jason Statham and Vin Diesel in a movie together without some sort of altercation, so they have the required street fight as well. All the brawling actually helps mix things up a little; it’s no more realistic but it’s a different kind of action. The more the movie keeps moving, the better it is.

My biggest complaint about Furious 7, other than the obvious plot holes and complete lapses in logic, is that there isn’t enough of The Rock. He helps kick off the movie, but then disappears for most of the rest of the film. That’s not what I signed up for. The Rock makes the most of his time, but I’m always going to be happy with more Rock rather than less. There’s also less Jason Statham than you might be lead to believe; he’s in a lot of the movie, but his presence ebbs and flows. Jordana Brewster doesn’t really have anything to add to these movies any longer, so they wisely ship her off pretty quickly.

Some other thoughts:

  • Other than one scene with some cheesy (and obvious) CGI, it isn’t noticeable that Walker wasn’t used for some scenes. I think it helps that they used Paul Walker’s brothers as stand-ins; Cody Walker, in particular, looks a LOT like his famous brother.
  • Much to my dismay, they do briefly revisit Tokyo Drift characters. It’s pointless and not handled particularly well – why not just re-shoot the scenes rather than use footage from a movie that is nine years old? – but I guess it’s a nice shout out to fans.
  • I’ll admit that I got a little teary during the goodbye to Walker. I was a little surprised by that, but maybe I’m a bigger softie than I think.
  • The comedy in these movies continues to become less unintentional; Tyrese Gibson and Ludicrous provide most of the laughs.
  • A familiar face for Game of Thrones fans pops up in this installment; Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei, Daenerys’ right hand woman) plays the hacker that they are tasked with rescuing.
  • I’d love to see an estimate as to how much property damage these fools caused. It’s got to be an astronomical number.
  • This franchise is determined to keep shortening the name of its movies; by the next film, it might just be a number and drop any reference to Fast and or Furious altogether.
  • There are a lot of ridiculous things going on in this movie, but the whole “Letty has amnesia” angle may be the dumbest of the bunch.

Furious 7 could probably benefit from an editor – I’d say it ran about twenty minutes too long – and despite Vin Diesel’s proclamations, it will never win a Best Picture Oscar. But it is still a fun way to spend some time at the theater and as far as mindless entertainment goes, it is certainly a high performing popcorn movie. I honestly see no signs of this franchise slowing down – the film made ridiculous bank in its first two weekends – even with Walker’s death. I do think it is smart to reboot things a bit; the 8th movie is rumored to move east to NYC and they’ll obviously have to bring in some new faces to help round out the crew. This may be in completion with Fast & Furious 6 for my favorite of the bunch; I do enjoy myself some Jason Statham which almost makes up for the lack of The Rock. If you are a fan of the franchise or enjoy over-the-top action films, you’ll totally dig Furious 7. A fitting tribute to Paul Walker and a go for broke mentality on action and fight sequences put this film in the fast lane for springtime fun.

Furious 7 is currently in wide release.

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