There is so much to admire about the Furious franchise (or is it the Fast franchise?) When Director Justin Lin injected fresh NOS into the series with Fast 5 the film embraced all of the original’s silliness and doubled down on the absurdly fun action. It was the kind of over-the-top cheesy goodness that Michael Bay could only dream of. Lin kept the hits coming with Fast & Furious 6 layering on so much plot, crossing and double crossing that it nearly enveloped why we see these movies in the first place. Lin has bowed out after 4 consecutive adventures and handed the reigns to Saw-veteran James Wan. But Lin’s template remains as Furious 7 takes car stunts, silly dialogue and Vin Diesel tank tops to an even greater extreme.
The Furious films claim to be – above all else – about family. How did I deduce such an important theme? Well, in between spectacular car stunts, bloodless melee’s and girls body paint it is truly all any character can talk about. Family first is Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) driving force (pun most definitely intended) and God Damnit he’s going to remind you whenever he gets the chance. But alas, a story is constructed to string together these unintentionally funny (actually, after 7 films it’s almost definitely intentionally) scenes.
Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw and he’s a bad man. He’s ex-British intelligence (which means he knows karate, gun play, car stuff and plane stuff) and after the events of Furious 6 left his brother 6-feet under he’s out for revenge. That means tracking Dom and his crew and taking them out, one perfect jaw line at a time. But Shaw has crossed Dom as well leaving a wake of death and destruction in his path. And Dom wants justice.
Conveniently for Dom Kurt Russell is in this movie (I know, I was excited too.) Kurt works for the government in a shadowy capacity and needs Dom’s help recovering a surveillance system called “God’s Eye.” God’s Eye is lifted directly from the video game “Watch Dogs” and allows it’s user to access any camera, microphone or system accessing the digital grid. This piece of tech is vital to the US government and if Dom and company can help them locate it they can use it to take out Shaw.
Got it? Yeah, I didn’t care either. Essentially the plot allows these misfits to globe hop to exotic locals for increasingly insane stunts. The action that we go for is here in spades. In fact, there might be too many set pieces in Furious 7 extending the runtime well beyond 2-hours. But the two central stunts are worth seeing twice (IMAX preferably.) One involves Dom and crew parachuting into a secure compound. The twist? The parachutes are each attached to a car with GPS coordinates to drop said crew in perfect position on the road. It’s really spectacular and officially transitions the Furious heroes into a full on Avengers-like superhero troop.
As fun as Furious 7 is the tragic death of Paul Walker looms large. Walker died in the middle of production and the film does an admirable job not to exploit his presence. In fact the tribute to Walker that wraps up the film is remarkably tasteful. It’s a somber coda to a film franchise that blossomed late and would probably continue indefinitely if it wasn’t for this.
But of course there will be more Fast films. The only hope is they move on from this cast (or hand the series to the Rock.) Walker’s death has cast a finality on this group that could use a breather anyway (Vinny D is getting a little soft.) That being said Furious 7 delivers the goods and in this cynical blockbuster landscape that’s more than enough.