I suppose action fans need their “Star Wars” and “The Fast and The Furious” franchise represents just that. The comparison is not made in terms of the franchise’s quality but sheer epicenes (at least in action movie terms). I don’t think we’ve had a film series that is a group of pure action movies become this long and successful. There is even a forest chase lifted right out the Speed bike chase on the moons of Endor from “Return of the Jedi”.
I must also confess that for a long time I truly wasn’t a fan of the franchise. The original “The Fast and the Furious” was at best a somewhat entertaining B-Movie, but not much of else (and a clear “Point Break” rip off). The sequel “2 Fast 2 Furious” was a step down from the original and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” was by far the worst (even though I appreciate them attempting to try something new with the franchise). By that point the series to me was pretty dead. Then the franchise went back to its roots with the 2009 sequel “Fast and Furious” which I found to be the best of the franchise (at the time). Still, not a great movie but it started to turn things around for me. It was “Fast Five” that blew the franchise open for me. This is where the series found it’s sweet spot with a new fond sense of self awareness, incredible action and stunts. “Fast and Furious 6” easily became my favorite of the series with a strong villain, memorable moments and an increasingly fun and over the top sense of style.
“Furious 7” looked poised to continue this trend and even with the tragic passing of star Paul Walker, and the troubled production I had a lot of faith that newcomer director James Wan and Universal Pictures would deliver another thrilling ride. Deliver they did, with “Furious 7” becoming easily one of the best in the franchise with more over the top moments (sometimes too over the top), entertaining action sequences, a great villain and a proper sendoff to the franchise star Paul Walker.
After the events of “Fast and Furious 6” where the gang led by Dominic Toretto and Brain O’Conner take down Owen Shaw and his team of Special Op terrorists, Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw, (played by Jason Staham) is out looking for revenge for his brother; planning to spread a reign of terror to Dom and his crew. While the United States National Government recruit Dom and his team for a covert operation that will secure Deckard Shaw into the hands of Dom for his own revenge for the death of someone close to him.
Like all (or at least the most recent films) “Fast and Furious” movies aren’t exactly plot driven. Neither is it here. The movie really does serve itself best working its way to the big action setups. Surprisingly though this movie tires up several hanging plot threads from the previous installments. This deals actually deals with Letty’s (Michelle Rodrigez) memory loss in the sixth movie. This picks up slightly before the end credits scene of “Fast 6” while also finally tying in “Tokyo Drift’s” scene with Dom at the very end (so really 4,5 and 6 were prequels and not sequels). You sort of just have to roll with some of the story where the Government recruits Dom and his crew (but it’s certainly not most ridiculous thing that happens in this film).
For a “Fast” film, this movie’s story does work, but you know what really works here? The action. That’s what we really show up to these movies for, the fun characters and the awesome action sequences. At times the action does push itself a bit too far and unrelenting but never goes into a “Transformers 4” territory (where the action is everything we’ve seen before from the series and never seems to end). “Furious 7” brings us more of what we love but keeps on coming up with new sequences and moments that we haven’t seen before. They do drive it to unseen heights with physics that don’t make a ton of sense (as Brain reminds us that “Cars don’t fly”) . No matter though, the fights and the car chases will thrill and entertain you to death, even if you have to roll your eyes and shake your head occasionally.
For the first time since “2 Fast 2 Furious” a new director has step into the chair. Justin Lin has been at the helm since “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and is now stepping away with newcomer master horror director James Wan stepping in. Only Wan’s second foray into the action genre shows a level of competence that was a bit unexpected. Wan blends his own style and trademark stamps into the series with the direction and tone of the series that Lin established in the previous entries. Now seeing Wan tackle the action genre, and horror I’m curious to see what he can do next.
There are two new casting additions to this film that are wonderful acquisitions. Kurt Russell and Jason Statham. Statham (teased at the end of “Furious 6”) should play more villain roles because he is a stone cold killing machine in this, a very physically imposing villain. I’m not sure if I like him more than Luke Evans from “Furious 6” but he is pretty damn close. Kurt Russell plays the government agent that recruits Dom, named Mr. Nobody. You can tell he is having a ton of fun in this movie and it’s just as fun to watch him. I hope they bring him back for future installments.
Of course many are wondering how the movie deals with the tragic death of Paul Walker? With only half of his scenes filmed, his death led to a major production halt. To complete some key scenes they had to CGI in his face and have his brothers stand in as him (and do their best with the dubbing some voiceovers in). James Wan and Universal seemed to handle it very well. Most of the scenes (unless you’re really looking hard for it) you can’t tell the difference whether it’s CGI or him. Some scenes you can tell they are trying to hide his face, but it’s never distracting and I applaud the work the filmmakers had to do to make this film work around him passing. Plus they give the character a proper send off with a very heartfelt tribute. The movie ends with the proper words “For Paul”. Not a much better way to send off the character we all have grown fond of.
I think this movie is close to my favorite of the series (although I am pretty partial to the sixth one). It’s an incredible journey this film series has made (for more ways than one). “Furious 7” continues the trend of the past few sequels with over the top action and great character moments (and I’d like to see James Wan continue the series). This movie would be a good spot to end the series (but then again it could have ended after the first one) but I am still very interested in future installments although it’d be a very hard job to top these previous ones.