Furious 7 Review
ONE LAST RIDE
AND A BITTERSWEET GOODBYE
The Fast & the Furious movie franchise has truly made a name for itself. Debuting back in 2001 with original The Fast & the Furious, viewers were introduced to the world of underground street racing with Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner and Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto as the series main leads. After several additional movies, the series was starting losing its edge, until director Justin Lin came along with 2011’s Fast Five (the fifth entry in The Fast & the Furious franchise), placing a more emphasis on story / plot rather than just the aspect of illegal street racing. With the success of Fast Five sort of refreshing the series with interest, this was then followed up in a similar fashion with 2013’s Fast & the Furious 6. Now, after much hype, anticipation, and sadness, the seventh entry in the series races into theaters with Furious 7 (or Fast & the Furious 7 to some). Does this latest installment quench a viewer’s adrenaline rush or as the excitement of the franchise spurt out?
Looking to a life of peace and away from the dangerous exploits of recent past adventures, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) settles down with his wife Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), his sister Mia (Jordana Brewester) and his now domesticated friend / brother-in-law Brian (Paul Walker). However, their tranquil transition is cut short when a new enemy appears on the horizon and seeking revenge. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a lethal black ops assassin and brother to Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), has his eye fixes on evening the score with Dominic’s team, killing Han (Sung Kang) in Tokyo and seriously injuring Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). With vengeance on his mind, Dominic gets aid from a secret government agent named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who needs the racer’s talented team to retrieve a computer hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and the elusive global spy program titled “God’s Eye” from the clutches of terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). Teaming up with Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Ludacris), Dom, Brian, and Letty hunt for Ramsey and “God’s Eye”, inching ever closer to finding and dealing with Shaw’s villainous revenge.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
For what it was, I enjoy watching the Fast & the Furious movies. The first one was really good, the second one was good, the third one was just okay, and the fourth one was an improvement from the third. It was until Fast Five came out that I felt like the franchise had made right decision with a film that has more plot than just simply racing. Personally, Fast & the Furious 6 is my favorite movie of the series so far. Like most, I was grievously upset when I heard about Paul Walker’s untimely death and curious in wondering if Furious 7, which was in the middle of production, was going to completed or such simply scrapped altogether. Luckily, after a year delayed, Furious 7 is out and, after viewing it, felt like it was really good (personally not as good as Fast & the Furious 6), but carries the series’ adrenaline bravado with an emotional impact of closure towards Paul Walker’s legacy.
After directing the past several installments and rejuvenating the general public’s interest in the series, Justin Lin graciously bows out, passing the baton of directing Furious 7 to James Wan, famous for directing such horror features as Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring. Wan takes Lin’s formula from Fast Five and Fast & the Furious 6 and utilizes that recipes in helming this latest project. For the most part, it works, hitting all the right beats in action, comedy, and automobile antics. Family, those who we are born to and those we create through friends, has always been the common theme that runs through entire film series, and is still ever present (even more so) in this entry. Its action continues to be large-than-life with elaborate stunts and chase of cars defying gravity and explosive bombardments of gunfire and mayhem. Yes, it’s a little ridiculous, but fans of the franchise wouldn’t have any other way. Its honest to goodness mindless fun, but in a very good way.
The problem with Furious 7 is that its plot is a little convoluted at times with the film’s narrative not being as cohesive as previous ones. It ultimately feels like Furious 7 is two different stories (one being the hunt for Ramsey and “God’s Eye” and the second being the Deckard Shaw story). Both story threads collided in the third act, but not as quite well as intended. Even the concept of “God’s Eye”, while interesting, is a little hokey and nonsensical. Also, while the action is good, the film does get a little carried away with a couple of sequences that run a little too long.
Like most of the Fast & the Furious features, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker anchor the movie as the two lead actors. Diesel’s Dominic still carries the leadership backbone of his team, while providing tactical car chase maneuvering and brawling one-on-one fights with style and ease. Walker’s Brian is, of course, the film’s focal point (and for the audience) with a strong emphasis on the recurring theme of family continuing play on his character. His completion of filming was credited to body doubles that include Paul’s brothers (Cody and Caleb Walker) with digitally technology rendering Paul’s face on the stand-ins. Besides, a couple of brief moments, the average viewers wouldn’t be able to see the altercations nor does it really distract from the overall movie.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson still continues to steal the show as Hobbs and, while his present on-screen here is reduced from the last two movies, he still delivers great timely one-liners and packs up of punches here and there. Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty returns to the team as Furious 7 continues her story from the previous one, conflicted and struggling to regain her past memories. Also like last time, Rodriguez’s gets her moment to shine again as Letty goes another “girl vs. girl” round with a MMA star (Ronda Rousey this time round). As for the film’s comic relief, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris continue to lead the charge on that front with their humorous banter as Roman Pearce and Tej Parker, respectively. Much how it’s been for the past several movies, Jordana Brewster’s Mia is still present, but more in the background.
Newcomer to the series is Jason Statham as the revenge seeking Deckard Shaw. Statham, who is mostly known for his action oriented films, is ideally cast in this role, bringing with him some stand-out fighting sequences with him against Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody also makes an impression as the seasoned actor chews through his pithy dialogue with joyous ease and fun. Game of Thrones star Nathalie Emmanuel plays supporting role in the character of Ramsey and is a great addition to Dominic’s team (hope she’s sticks around from the next movie). Djimon Hounsou has similar supporting role in Jakande, but, while his part is somewhat small in nature, it still is an effective as a bad guy. Rounding out the cast is small cameos appearances from previous installments such as Elsa Pataky’s Elena, Noel Gugliemi’ s Hector (from the first Fast & Furious movie), and Tokyo Drift’s Lucas Black reprises his role as Sean Boswell (thought he would have a larger role in Furious 7).
With cars zoom across various landscapes, characters dodging bullets frantically, and ridiculous frivolities permeating almost every action sequence, the movie’s final scene (a heartfelt sendoff to Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor and to the actor himself) is a touching notion that eases Furious 7 out of its inherit blockbuster action and switches gears to something quite moving and memorable. The farewell to Walker feels truly genuine with closure that’s in-tuned with the franchise’s identity, leaving even the most diehard Fast and the Furious fan a little teary eyed.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Furious 7 is a bittersweet chapter in the Fast & Furious series, acting as either final installment or next addition to the franchise. Faced with the untimely and heartbreaking death of one of the main leads during the middle of production, James Wan astonishingly delivers an entertaining and over-the-top action packed joyride of a feature. It may not be the best entry in the series, but it surely will delight fans, hitting every satisfying note that the Fast & the Furious movies are known for, while also paying a proper farewell tribute to Paul Walker’s memory.