2015, PG-13, 140 mins.
2015, PG-13, 140 mins.
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto / Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs / Jason Statham as Ian Shaw / Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner / Lucas Black as Sean Boswell / Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz / Elsa Pataky as Elena / Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto / Djimon Hounsou as Slim / Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce / Nathalie Emmanuel as Megan / Tony Jaa as Louie Tran / Shad Moss as Twinkie / Ludicrous as Tej Parker
Directed by James Wan / Written by Chris Morgan
There’s an action sequence midway through FURIOUS 7, the seventh (count ‘em...SEVENTH!?) film in the FAST AND FURIOUS series that highlights its go-for-broke penchant for action sequences that border on the sublimely ridiculous.
The scene in
question features Dominic
Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his squad parachuting out of a cargo jet that's
flying over Azerbaijan…while in their cars.
They manage to fall through the heavens and land perfectly on a
narrow freeway – heavily flanked by mountains and trees –
so they can peruse their targets for their next big score.
Forget about why they needed to skydive in their cars to reach the
road…the fact is that they did it while occupying the unapologetically
universe that these films reside in.
That’s just one
of a handful of action sequences that made me howl with approving laughter
all throughout FURIOUS 7, a film that’s so positively crammed with over-the-top
extremes that most people in the audience left the theater after the
screening with strained necks from all of the head shaking done at the
incredulity thrown on screen. The
FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, to be fair, has no business being as fresh,
novel, and crazily entertaining as it has been this relatively late in the
proceedings. After a somewhat stalled attempt to get the series back to its
roots – with its two principle leads in Diesel and Paul Walker – in
2009’s FAST AND FURIOUS, it
miraculously course corrected with the gloriously entertaining FAST
FIVE (which retrofitted the franchise from a purely auto porn
action series and into a heist thriller) and the mostly engaging FAST
AND FURIOUS 6. You
may recall that FAST FIVE set a benchmark for wanton on-screen absurdity,
having a finale involving Dom and Brain O'Connor racing through the streets of Rio
while dragging a bank vault behind them.
FURIOUS 7 seems
to amp up the wild-eyed preposterousness of its last two films to the next
proverbial level. The cartoonish fisticuffs, gun battles, car chases, crashes, and overall
vehicular mayhem have reached levels so inanely improbable here that they
border on self-parody. Matching
this film’s unbridled and mostly inspired ludicrousness is the rather
unexpected poignant edge that it maintains throughout, ostensibly because
of Paul Walker’s tragic and ironic death in a horrific car accident
before the film was even half finished (his brothers Caleb and Cody were
used as stand-ins to complete his remaining scenes with computer generated
face lifts in some shots). FURIOUS
7’s Herculean silliness did not surprise me much, but what did was the
refreshingly tactful manner that the script dealt with and
acknowledged the passing of its main star.
Throughout the film you marvel at all of its nitro-fuelled
silliness, but in the end the film attains some dramatic brevity that one never comes to expect from this series as a
FURIOUS 7 takes
place precisely after the events of FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (which ended during the
events of THE FAST AND FURIOUS:
TOKYO DRIFT, but never mind…too confusing).
We were introduced to new series badass Ian Shaw (Jason
Statham), whom has decided to seek some bloody comeuppance on Dom and his
posse for the death of his brother. Because
Shaw is, of course, an ex-black ops agent, he can stay in the shadows and
under the radar…that is unless he feels like literally killing everyone
in a hospital (as shown in FURIOUS 7’s opening sequence).
First on Shaw’s “To Kill List” is Agent Hobbs (Dwayne
Johnson), which miraculously leaves Hobbs in the hospital, but not dead.
Next up for Shaw involves him remote blowing up Dom’s family home, but Shaw
misses the target of actually killing Dom, his sister Mia (Jordana
Brewster), her husband Brain (Walker) and their young son.
wants revenge, seeing as he’s a staunch family man above all else.
Thankfully – and rather conveniently – a slick government agent
(newcomer Kurt Russell, juicily chewing scenery) enters in and offers Dom
any and all
available resources at his disposal – including his old crew, one being Dom’s on-again,
off-again amnesiac girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) – to track down
Shaw as well as another vile terrorist scumbag (Djimon Hounsou) from
unleashing the full power of a new GPS tracking system called “God’s
Eye” that can find anyone anywhere on the planet.
Rather unavoidably, Dom and company leave a whole lot of
destruction in their wake in their efforts to get possession of God’s
Eye while ridding the world of the two terrorists once and for all.
If I were to levy
a complaint against this installment then it would be that director James
Wan (director of the first SAW film and INSIDIOUS, replacing Justin Lin)
perhaps utilizes too much CG tinkering instead of real-world practical
car effects this go around. This has the negative effect of lessening any tangible force
that many auto-heavy action sequences have and also nullifies any sense of
palpable tension. He also –
much like way too many modern action directors – frames sequences in a dizzying
barrage of micro-edits and frenetic camera pans, which lessens spatial
choreography and overall clarity. Yet,
there’s still no denying the sheer impact that some of FURIOUS 7’s set
pieces have, like the aforementioned skydiving cars montage or a
remarkable humdinger of a sequence showing Brian running up the edge of a
bus that’s teetering and about to fall off a cliff.
There’s a sensationally effective – albeit jaw-droppingly
improbable – scene involving Dom and Brain jumping an armored sports car
between multiple high-rise buildings in India.
Now, I comprehend how impossible it is for the heroes – and the
vehicle – to survive such an ordeal, but it sure looks exhilaratingly
Of course, Wan
unleashes physical battles between multiple adversaries as well, one of
which is a stunningly brutal donnybrook between Letty and Ronda Rousey –
both wearing evening gowns (don't ask) – and a climatic street fight between Dom and
Shaw that doesn’t disappoint on its intended levels.
What does kind of disappoint, though, is the rather lackluster development of Shaw as a worthy villain (Statham can look steely eyed and
menacing with the best of them, but on paper Shaw is pretty thin and not utilized
to his maniacal fullest).
Equally forgettable is Hounsou’s redundantly added protagonist, a
character that never really adds anything to the overall story beyond
serving as another obligatory plot device/obstacle for Dom’s team.
Then there’s also another new character in the form of Nathalie
Emmanuel as Ramsey, a gorgeous computer hacker with intimate knowledge of
God’s Eye that spends a lion’s share of her screen time being rescued
and saved while she paradoxically has all the power.
At 140 minutes,
FURIOUS 7 also runs the risk of attaining Michael Bay-ian levels of
self-indulgent bloat, which leaves the film feeling more exhausting at the
end then truly thrilling. The film has acting that borders on cringe worthy at times
featuring soggy dialogue that is intended to provide exposition on
characters and an overall storyline that’s too convoluted for its own
good. Thankfully, FURIOUS 7
never wallows too long on character dynamics and making sense of its
bizarre and out-there plotting. Instead,
it’s a mostly – pardon the pun – well-oiled engine at showcasing
human beings and cars doing impossibly outlandish things that defy the
modest rules of logic and science. The
film never attains the franchise rejuvenating spirit of FAST FIVE (this
one feels like its going through the paces a bit more leisurely and
safely), but as far as seventh films in a series go, FURIOUS 7 gets the job
done better than most.
And as a final swan song for Paul Walker, the film pays respectful homage to him, his career, and character with remarkable taste while setting up the further cinematic adventures of Dominic Torreto. That’s a pretty tricky feat for any film to pull off.