Director: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell
No one does what the Fast & Furious franchise does better than them. From reasonably modest beginnings, and seemingly stalled after its third entry, it has become the jewel in Universal’s crown and has taken over US$3 billion worldwide. Very few franchises make it to seven films, and those that do are often on their last legs, but with Furious 7 this one just keeps getting bigger.
It is impossible to watch this film without Paul Walker’s tragic death being at the front of your mind. Walker was killed in a high speed car accident in November 2013 midway through the shooting of Furious 7 and many legitimately felt that it would be the end of the franchise. But after substantial rewrites, production recommenced, with Walker’s scenes finished using body doubles and digital trickery. And it worked. Furious 7 is not only a fun film but a fitting and heartfelt farewell to Walker, which, in a way, should not be a surprise. At its heart this series has always been about family (just in case you missed the surely hundreds of times the word family has been used across the seven films), so there is arguably no franchise better suited to handling the loss of one of its stars than this one.
Fans lost their minds when Jason Statham showed up in the post credit sequence for Fast & Furious 6. In Furious 7 we are properly introduced to his character, Deckard Shaw. A former special-ops soldier and big, bad brother to Fast & Furious 6 villain Owen Shaw, Deckard is determined to get revenge on the crew that left his little brother in a coma. After hospitalising Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), he sets out to hunt down Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and the rest of his crew. Toretto is then approached by a shady government agent who introduces himself as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) with an offer. If Toretto and his crew will help the government recover a super surveillance device called ‘God’s Eye’ from a group of terrorists who have stolen it, the government will let Toretto use it to find Deckard Shaw and kill him. Hang on, you may be thinking, why do they need the God’s Eye to find someone who is following them? Every time they are in the same location for more than ten minutes, Shaw shows up. It is best not to get caught up in questions of logic. Just go with the flow. Oh, and Toretto’s girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) still has amnesia.
Furious 7 sees director Justin Lin handing over the reins to Malaysian born Australian James Wan (best known for horror films like Saw and The Conjuring). Having directed films three through six, Lin played a major role in transforming this franchise into the juggernaut it is today, but Furious 7 doesn’t miss a beat with the transition. The screenplay is still patchy, the dialogue is still laughable and that makes the acting feel a bit wooden, but the action remains on point.
Furious 7 features some typically outrageous set pieces. This franchise seems to be built on action sequences deemed too unbelievable for a Bond film. Trying to pick the most over the top moment of the film is tough. You can go big with cars parachuting out of a military plane, or a car leaping between Abu Dhabi skyscrapers, or you can go for something simple like Hobbs flexing the cast off his recovering broken arm when “Daddy’s gotta go to work.”
But what makes these big, ridiculous spectacle films work where others fall over is their incredible earnestness. There is a palpable affection for these characters and when Toretto delivers one of his many orations about the importance of family, you know that the film really believes it. The importance of the ethnic diversity of the cast can also not be overlooked when considering the series’ success, and in this regard the Fast & Furious franchise can really serve as a lesson to mainstream Hollywood.
Vin Diesel boldly predicted Furious 7 will walk away with next year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. It will not. But it is a whole heap of fun. Furious 7 is big and dumb and tremendous.
Review by Duncan McLean
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