The Fast & The Furious is an interesting franchise. It started with the original 2001 film, which was basically Point Break with cars, produced a few so-okay-it’s-average sequels, and then suddenly realised the possibilities in the fourth instalment. Since then each movie has been an evolution on the last, mixing and matching genres at random. Fast & Furious was trying to be a crime noir, Fast Five was a heist, and Fast & Furious 6 was a brave attempt at an action-thriller.
Furious 7, the most recent instalment, is an action movie.
Yes, the previous movie involved action, but Furious 7 is the first to really own the genre. The ridiculousness from the previous films has been turned up to eleven, and any attempt at plausibility has been tossed aside in favour of physics-defying stunts and Bond one-liners. It has everything except Bruce Willis shooting a helicopter with a car, and it is glorious.
The premise follows off the sixth film, where Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his misfit team of racers defeated the villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and left him in a coma. In Furious 7, Owen’s bigger, badder brother Deckard (Jason Statham in one of the best character introductions outside of a Joss Whedon flick) comes looking for revenge. Since Deckhard is played by an actor that specialises in playing stone-cold badasses, things are looking pretty dire for our team. With his family’s lives in the balance, Dominic makes a deal with a shady government agency, agreeing to recapture a computer program called the God’s Eye in return for help taking down the former black-ops assassin.
While the plot is nothing special, the film knows its strengths and plays to them. It has hot cars, scantily clad women, and likeable characters trading witty banter. Deckard Shaw is a great villain, a more or less evil version of Statham’s character from The Transporter. He’s ice cold under pressure, imaginative, and utterly relentless. And honestly, it’s just really cool to see the stars of two racing franchises duke it out mano e’mano.
While cool is the name of the game with these protagonists, don’t expect any of the personal growth that made them so compelling in the past. Dominic has been reduced to every cliché of the stoic, overly-muscled hero that could have stepped out of an eighties action flick. His amnesiac girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) has a storyline cheesy enough to make a soap opera cringe, while Tek (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) do exactly what they do every film: make fun of each other. It’s lucky they’re all so darn entertaining.
The addition of Nathalie Emmanuel to the cast as a world-renowned hacker is asking for a lot of suspension of disbelief, but so is the car leaping between three buildings. With this movie, realism is something you check at the door. In any case Emmanuel is charming and funny, and apart from some flirting and lingering camera shots, her character isn’t really treated as a love interest, which is refreshing in a balls-to-the-wall manly movie like this.
The stunts, as always, are fantastic. Stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos went to a lot of trouble to get them right, to the point of throwing real cars out of a real airplane. That’s a man dedicated to his job and his efforts pay off beautifully. Unfortunately the fight scenes get a little too improbable, with the exception of one brutal brawl depicted by Rodriguez and real-life MMA fighter Ronda Rousey. Despite being stuck in ball gowns, they manage to have hands-down the best fight in the entire movie, and that’s impressive considering their competition includes Vin Diesel and Statham slugging each other with chunks of metal.
Finally, it would be impossible to review this movie without referring to the tragic death of Paul Walker in the middle of filming. On a technical level, it’s remarkable that director James Wan has managed to finish the film as seamlessly as he has. Walker’s two real-life brothers (Caleb and Cody Walker) were used as stand-ins while CGI was used to re-create Walker’s face. Without giving away too much, the film works as both a very gentle phasing out of the character and a respectful farewell to the actor. The ending is a tear-jerker that will melt even the hardest of hearts with its real-life overlap.
Furious 7 works on multiple levels. It’s a fantastic big, dumb action film and a poignant final chapter for a much-loved character and actor. If you like the genre at all, you’ll enjoy this for its mindless fun and amazing stunts. Be warned, it gets quite emotional toward the end, but doesn’t turn maudlin or self-serving. It’s exciting, fast-paced, and even if no one quite reaches the epic silliness of shooting a helicopter with a car, they come literally within inches of it. That’s two and a half hours well spent.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10