Movie Review: Furious 7

Furious-7

Furious Seven (Furious 7) marks the seventh film in the series of fast and furious flicks.  Universal Studios has found a relative goldmine with the Fast and Furious Franchise – with a multicultural cast, crew and a deeply loyal and diverse fan base.  I love this franchise – all of it – with its continued streak of ridiculous plot lines, adrenaline fueled action and bro-love. You can count me in for a Fast and Furious marathon any time (obviously watching in chronological 1-2-4-5-6-3-7 order).

The series has been around for 14 years. Take a moment to process that – 14 years of Dom, Brian and crew entertaining the masses. With each new film, the chases get faster, the stunts more furious, and the drama…more melodramatic. Long gone is the 2001 premise of an undercover cop infiltrating the world of LA street racing.  Now, we have a set of globe-trotting films that have spanned four continents, defied the laws of physics and carried nonsense espionage to new heights.

If you need a recap – The Verge has compiled a 10-minute plot summary of all 6 films leading up to Furious 7:

Furious 7 is a thoroughly entertaining and wild mess of a movie – with an abundance of violence, car crashes and one-liners. What it lacks in a coherent story, it makes up for with incredulous testosterone-fueled action.

Furious 7 immediately follows the events of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious 6. Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew defeated an international terrorist named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and went their separate ways. But now, Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out killing the crew one by one for revenge.

This already sounds like a typical action film – vengeance, with good guys and bad guys squaring off. But this plot line isn’t EXTREME enough yet, so the writers have added a Somalian terrorist called Jakarde (Djimon Honsou), and a shady government official called “Mr. Nobody” (Kurt Russell), who are both competing to steal a computer terrorism program called God’s Eye, that can turn any technological device into a weapon. Our Fast & Furious team must assemble to stop Shaw and retrieve the God’s Eye program while caught in a power struggle between terrorist and the United Statesgovernment. Also…. Letty (Dom’s girlfriend, as played by Michelle Rodriguez) has amnesia. All of this has the makings of a very expensive telenovela.

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There’s a lot of really really stupid plot there. The first third of the film really struggles to make much sense – which left me wondering how much of the original plans for the script and story were scrapped after the untimely death of Paul Walker. Once the film settles into its usual high-octane action – most of my reservations were assuaged – we’re only here for the ride.

The insane plot is compounded by really impressive action sequences, including an exciting “sky-driving” scenario in which the crew skydives….in cars….to land on a mountain. I’ll allow it.  This is what fans of the series expect from this franchise – most of this insanity is accepted with a shrug or a laugh. It doesn’t make much sense – but it’s slick and entertaining. Opening weekend featured an appropriate level of clapping and screaming throughout the movie.

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Furious 7 caters to veteran fans, layering nostalgia and old friends to tie up loose ends and merge story lines. New comers to this franchise should be warned – this movie is fan-service at its finest. This was director James Wan’s first foray into the Fast and Furious world (I still really miss Justin Lin)… and he made sure it was really fast….and really furious.  Action movie buffs and diehard Fast & Furious fans alike have fueled Furious 7 to box office breaking heights.

Furious 7

The cast seems to really love being a part of this franchise, hamming it up with over-the-top acting and clichés galore. No one seems to be having a better time than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – who belts out clichéd dialogue like “daddy’s got to go to work” with a smug grin for the camera. There’s really not enough of The Rock in this flick. The newcomers don’t have much to do – with Statham’s villain serving as an angry T-1000-esque figure, stomping through the film without much to say, and Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel as little more than a damsel in distress as hacker Ramsey. Rhonda Rousey and Tony Jaa create some great, but ultimately forgettable fight scenes as disposable henchmen. I completely forgot that Djimon Honsou’s character existed until he turned up again…and again. Kurt Russell is a fun, but utterly useless character as “Mr.Nobody”, a random government agent thrown into the mix.

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Even with all the new additions, there’s always been an easy camaraderie between the core cast, a sense of family that is prevalent throughout the series and the central theme of Furious 7. However, much of the dynamic and spontaneous character interactions that I’ve come to love were missing. With the loss of Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot) in previous films, the core group including Dom, Brian, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) seems smaller than ever.  For all the talk about “family”, the focus seemed to lie on Dom alone.

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The film carries the weight and hesitant expectation that followed the loss of Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident in November of 2013. Filming was completely halted and shut down for months to allow the extremely tight-knit cast and crew time to grieve, and to redevelop the storyline, including a planned exit for Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner.  The characters’ motto of “Ride or Die” was fittingly changed to “One Last Ride”.  Walker’s younger brothers stepped in to shoot scenes with an overlay of really well-executed CGI to ensure that Paul’s final film was completed. There’s an emotional weight on scenes with Walker, with almost every member of the crew has a somber moment of reflection with Brian.

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I watched the entire film, especially Paul Walker’s stunt scenes, with bated breath, waiting to see his character’s fate.  His departure from the series is handled with a great deal respect, and an unexpected grace. The moving tribute to the actor and subsequent fade to white had most of the audience, especially the long-time fans, in tears.

Furious 7 isn’t anywhere near being the best that this series has to offer. The film is a little over-long with unnecessary plot details, but as a huge fan, I’ll forgive the ridiculous subtext to allow for a fun film with a truly moving send-off to one of the series’ biggest stars. Furious 7 most likely won’t be the last of the extremely popular Fast and Furious series, but it most definitely felt like a bittersweet goodbye.

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