Furious 7 review
Ridiculous action and a fitting farewell
Seven pictures deep now and The Fast and the Furious franchise shows no signs of running out of steam. In fact, if star Vin Diesel’s words are true, the most recent entry, Furious 7, sets up a trilogy inside the series. If the momentum of franchise’s popularity continues, an eighth entry simply makes financial sense for the powers that be. That also seems more-than-likely due to Furious 7 already eating up April box office records set last year by Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Perhaps the recent surge of profitability in the April box office will prompt studios to post blockbusters earlier in the year?
The tremendous buzz surrounding production following star Paul Walker’s untimely, unfortunate death midway through filming heightened the stakes for director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring), who took on his first action project with Furious 7. The finished result of Wan’s first Furious movie should certainly impress fans of the popular franchise despite the bittersweet notion that Walker’s role of Brian O’Conner won’t return for future installments. The director’s first foray into the action genre certainly shows his talent to maneuver a camera around a car chase, but he also gets caught up in the blockbuster pageantry of the film and turns in the lengthiest entry of the series at 137 minutes as if he just graduated from the Michael Bay School of Blockbuster. For all of Wan’s audacious, spectacular fight/ chase sequences there are several areas that need work—starting with the “Race Wars” scene when the camera practically rested on looking up the skirt of the race caller. The acting always feels forced in these movies as well, but the melodrama in Furious 7 doesn’t really change the pace as much as it tempers the excitement of a previous action scene—particularly the subplot involving Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez trying to jog her memory of their past life together. If you thought they tied that end up in part 6, you were sorely incorrect.
Diesel and Walker admirably lead the impressive, extensive cast as they have for the last three pictures in the series. Diesel’s Toretto keeps the family motif alive and well—as if the character knew he wouldn’t ride again with his best friend on screen. When it comes to the Brian role, the Walker brothers (Paul, Cody, Caleb) collaborate to create a new, yet still same old, Brian O’Conner. Furious 7 introduces Brian as a dad behind the wheel of a mini-van, dropping his little boy off at preschool. We never saw this side of the character in the previous entries, but his first scene sets the stage for a natural send-off in regards to the character. Unfortunately, Jordana Brewster (The Faculty, Home Sweet Hell), is reduced to loving mother, sister, and wife, and never gets a part of the action like all of the other members of the Furious crew. Tyrese Gibson returns as comic-relief Roman Pearce. His attempts at humor are hit and miss—the hits are pretty good and the misses are misogynist, usually at the expense of new cast member Nathalie Emmanuel (“Game of Thrones,” “Hollyoaks”). Dwayne Johnson also appears in a few bookend scenes, but largely misses out on the majority of the show.
It’s the cast’s new additions that make the film exciting and give the franchise greater depth. Jason Statham debuts in the series as Deckard Shaw, the über-villain brother of Fast & Furious 6’s smooth villain Owen Shaw. Statham opens the film with a hilarious, ridiculous shot following him through a decimated hospital currently caring for his younger brother. He always strikes at the right time in Furious 7—introducing insurmountable chaos to an already-violent situation when they least expect him. It would be terrific to see the Shaw brothers team up to take Toretto’s family down in a future installment, but that’s for a later meeting one would expect.
Kurt Russell also appears as Mr. Nobody, a government agent who offers to give Toretto an edge to fighting “in the shadows” where Shaw operates. Russell brings a new level of respect to the franchise with his legendary action status; and with his presence and talent, makes the franchise transition from “car chasery” to “action/ espionage” a fluid one. Where earlier franchise installments failed to heighten the stakes, Russell spells it out clearly for the viewer. Vin Diesel almost had to become xXx again. Academy Award-nominee Djimon Hounsou cameos as a super villain-of-sorts in addition to Statham. Hounsou’s acting prestige also added a measure of class to a franchise obviously looking to break into the international spy genre.
A climactic battle jumps between three conflicts significantly extending the movie, but gives the film a spectacular, action-packed farewell to the late actor Paul Walker. Shaw and Toretto show down with cars and metal, a game of hot potato occurs between cars as they evade a helicopter, and Brian dukes it out with martial arts monk Tony Jaa. Wan, the cast, and Universal Studios certainly wanted to make Walker’s last film a memorable, special entry in the franchise for the fans that never let up on the action. While the dramatic scenes could use a measure of empathy and a few doses of passion, the film picks up and never lets down once acting legend Russell appears to explain the stakes and introduce international espionage. Whether or not Wan will return for an eighth chapter remains to be seen, but the idea of an eighth entry at all seems like a given. The only question is where will the franchise go without Walker? Thanks to the new cast additions, Universal has several options.