Review – Furious 7

Furious 7 Poster

With a franchise that just seems to get better each time around, the seventh entry promises to be not only action packed, but to pack an emotional punch as well.  Does Furious 7 deliver?

Furious 7 picks up right after Fast & Furious Six, but before the post credits stinger with Jason Statham, (yes, that is a little confusing).  The returning cast also includes Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese GibsonLudacris, and the late Paul Walker.  New additions include Kurt Russell, Ronda RouseyTony Jaa, and Djimon Hounsou.

After the insanity that was London in the previous film, Dom Toretto (Diesel) and the rest of his family of friends have returned home, ready to settle into “normal” lives again.  For Brian (Walker), that means being a father and driving a minivan around instead of pulling off fast capers with the gang or working action packed cases for the FBI.  While some memories are coming back, Letty (Rodriguez) is still struggling with amnesia from events before her supposed death.  Unfortunately for everyone, the big bad they defeated in the previous episode has a bigger, badder, brother (Statham) and he’s out for revenge.  Anyone else notice that these films have essentially become feature length soap operas for guys?

Taking out Han (Sung Kang), putting Hobbs (Johnson) in the hospital, and blowing up the Toretto’s home, Deckard Shaw is one dangerous man and he’s out for complete annihilation of the entire Fast and Furious Family.  It’s fun to see Statham in a full blown villain role – a rarity for the tough guy actor who usually plays the “criminal with a conscience” type.

Far removed from its street racing origins, this seventh Fast and Furious film is straight up action.  Powerful cars are still in play, but the story is something more akin to a Mission Impossible flick.  Complete with a black ops organization and a sophisticated heist to steal a powerful hacking device, one has to wonder if the script was co-opted from an unused pitch for the Tom Cruise powered franchise.  The gang has come a long way since they got their start in 2001 hijacking VCR’s.

More furious than the films before, but not exactly faster.  At nearly two and a half hours, this is one long movie, and the cars and racing seem almost secondary at times despite being the driving force behind the franchise.  That’s not to say fast cars and trick driving are not splattered all over the screen, it’s just more about overall action and the ever growing emotional character driven arcs than rubber and horsepower.  Martial arts fights are also on full display here.

The films long ago threw logic and physics out the window, inventing their own fast and furious fysics along the way.  Fun is more important than realism when it comes to this franchise.  Surprisingly, this film feels a bit more grounded in reality than the past couple.  This in spite of multiple attempts at making the viewer believe that cars can, in fact, fly.  This is a testament to some fantastic stun work that includes practical effects, as well as, most likely, a growing acceptance of what sort of things to expect from these films.  You have to walk into a movie like this with certain aspects of disbelief already suspended.

Director James Wan brings his developed sense of style and imaginative camera work to the series as he takes over for Justin Lin.  A skilled director with the unique eye for cinematography that he displayed in The Conjuring, he does a fantastic job here with plenty of memorable moments, some of which are things I had never seen on film before.

The film is long, but never drags.  The action is non-stop, giving you little time to pause and second guess the logic of the story.  For the most part, the story holds up to initial scrutiny, though there are the usual wonky aspects of Hollywood’s interpretation of “hacking” that I had a hard time ignoring.  Some of the simple logic ignored is bothersome, like if the bad guys realize they are being hacked, how, and from where, why not just leave until they’re out of range and come up with a new plan?  That wouldn’t be as exciting, but I wish we were given more of a reason why they didn’t think that was a viable option.

It is impossible to go into this film without thinking about Paul Walker.  His tragic death in 2013 meant that not only is this his final curtain call, but the story had to be re-written and various cinematic tricks pulled to complete the film he was in the midst of making.  I found myself distracted every time he was on screen, wondering if this was footage he had filmed, or digital manipulation after the fact.  Either he had completed most filming already, or the production team did a fantastic job, but I only noticed a select few moments that felt like something was off with how he looked or sounded.  It’s best if you can, for a few hours, forget all about that and enjoy his final film, but it’s hard.

There has been a lot of speculation on just what will happen with Walker’s character Brian.  It was reported early on that he wouldn’t be killed off, but retired.  How that would happen, and whether those reports were accurate has been up in the air.  I won’t give anything away, but Wan and company deal with this tragedy respectfully and appropriately in my opinion.  The film is a fitting send off to a beloved actor and character, and could even serve as the closing chapter of the Fast and Furious films were they to choose to do so.

Furious 7 is a whole lot of fun, but doesn’t quite match the gleeful abandon of the previous installment.  This is partly a conscious decision as Paul Walker’s death casts a bittersweet blanket over the whole proceedings, and I’m not faulting that.  There is just a bit too much going on here that the film ends up a little too bloated with so much going on, and doesn’t quite have enough zip.  Still, lots of fun, and if you like the franchise, you will love it.

Mrs. Hamster says:

“If you’re like me, you’ll be happier if you just pretend this is a science ficiotn movie, and not taking place in the real world.  The tribute to Paul Walker at the end was a nice touch.”

My rating: Four out of five hats

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Trailer:

Furious 7 speeds into 4,004 theaters, including IMAX, April 3