It’s flying cars meeting indestructible bodies in the last Fast & Furious movie to star Paul Walker (RIP), the first Fast & Furious movie to make a billion and a half dollar worldwide hereby securing this franchise as a behemoth for Universal Studios, as well as further proof that Dominic Toretto and his lovable band of criminals aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Director Justin Lin steps back as director, handing over the reigns to James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw), which means Furious 7 gets an upgrade in stylish camera angles, takes a step back when it comes to realism, and maintains everything that makes The Fast and the Furious such a cinematic joy.
This time around, Dom (Vin Diesel) continues to help Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) remember her past while Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is contemplating leaving his life of crime behind to be a good father to his kid and husband to Mia (Jordana Brewster). But their plans have to be put on hold when Deckerd Shaw, a ruthless ex-special ops assassin takes revenge for his brother by killing Dom’s crew one by one. In order to combat this newfound threat, Dom’s crew seeks the aid of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), a man who agrees to help them if they retrieve a tracking device called God’s Eye from a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and protect it from falling into the hands of a terrorist (Djimon Hounsow).
If the premise sounds complicated enough, Furious 7 has enough sub plots to last two movies. On one side you have Dominic and his crew trying to retrieve a tracking device, which ends up taking them to London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Abu Dhabi. Then you have the crew’s own personal vendetta against Shaw for killing one of their own (Han from Tokyo Drift). And on top of that, you have their individual stories, such as Letty trying to find a place where she belongs, Brian having difficulty adjusting to family life, and Ludacris’ own budding romance with Ramsey. Surprisingly, all of these sub plots are well handled. The film never feels jumbled or cluttered. This is a tribute to everyone working behind and in front of the camera. Even at 2 hours and 17 minutes, the film speeds by faster than a NOS-injected Pontiac GTO, err, maybe not that fast.
Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 did a sufficient enough job of establishing the character dynamics as well as identifying what role each one plays within the group. Furious 7 didn’t really need to develop these characters much more; it just needed to place them into dire situations and show how each character would react. And the film does a great job with this. Roman Pearce wants to share more of his ideas, and he does – even though the result is not what he planned. Tej gets to show off some secret martial arts tricks none of us knew about. But the real development here is on Brian O’Connor. It’s no surprise that this film was going to be the final film with the character, given the late Paul Walker’s tragic passing in 2013. The film aims to give the character a proper send off, and Paul Walker – with help from digital effects and his twin brothers standing in for the scenes he wasn’t able to finish – gives so much depth to his own personal torment. He loves the action, but he loves Mia more, and the inner battle he’s trying to face as he leaves the fast and furious world behind is where the film’s heart is at. Dwayne Johnson continues to steal every scene he’s in despite him only appearing in the beginning and the end. Jason Statham is essentially the T-1000. He has minimal dialogue and exists to beat the crap out of pretty much anyone in his way. Like Dwayne Johnson, Statham takes full control of his scenes. Kurt Russell is a welcome new addition, and I can’t wait to see him further channel his inner Snake Plissken in future sequels.
If Fast Five was Ocean’s Eleven, and Fast & Furious 6 was The Avengers, Furious 7 is the Transformers sequel we need and have been longing for. With James Wan replacing Justin Lin in the director’s chair, there is a noticeable change in style. It’s not a bad thing. But where Lin preferred long shots and slickly composed camera angles, Wan is more interested in close ups and a more “shaky cam” style of filming action. Although I feel Wan is one of the few directors today aside from Paul Greengrass and Matthew Vaughan who know how to use “shaky cam” well. The style doesn’t detract from the experience. It gives it a grittier feel, which works for the story Furious 7 wants to tell. There are definitely some moments that have been digitally created in post-production, particularly a scene where a car drives through not one, not two, but three skyscrapers. But even these scenes are well composed and incredibly fun to sit through. Basically, if you watch the film thinking that Dominic and his crew are essentially robots in disguise, then it will be easier for you to suspend your disbelief as they drive off cliffs, crash into each other, fall off buildings, and survive without a single scratch. The final fight scene composes of two characters playing chicken, getting out of their wrecked cars, and beating each other with metal rods. All I saw was Optimus Prime fighting Megatron. Furious 7 ignores almost every law of physics of plausibility, and the more ridiculous it gets, the more fun it gets.
Furious 7 rarely has a dull moment. It’s a big, fun, stupid movie that wears its heart on its sleeves. When scenes take a turn where Ronda Rousey makes a surprise cameo, confronts Michelle Rodriguez, and says “I’m glad you’re here; I was beginning to get bored,” or Tony Jaa scaling up walls, you understand that the movie knows full well what it’s doing – packing in today’s most popular action stars to go head to head with our top billed cast members. I doubt that Furious 7 will convert anyone who isn’t already a fan of the franchise, but this is the best possible seventh film we could get. The tribute to Paul Walker is wonderful and tear-jerking; if anything, the film gives his character and the actor a respectful send off in the classiest way. Combined with Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 makes a nice, well rounded trilogy. I also don’t know if an eighth film is even necessary since I don’t know how much more over the top the action and street racing scenes can get. Nevertheless, this was a great time at the movies that only The Fast and the Furious can deliver.