It may have the most confusing naming system since the Rambo movies, but Fast and Furious 7 is anything but a car crash.
Starting back in 2001, the franchise progressed from action-oriented racing through the backstreets of LA, to explosion permeated trips to exotic locations, where racing comes second to the ridiculous stunts and bare-knuckle brawls that now define each entry. Fast and Furious 7 follows this new tradition well, resulting in an enjoyable romp that borders on insanity but somehow keeps your eyes glued to the screen until the credits roll.
Following from the last film, Fast and Furious 6, Fast and Furious 7 picks up with Deckard Shaw, the brother of the villain from the last film, swearing vengeance on Dominic Toretto. Shaw is played by Jason Statham, who manages to explain his characters motivations in an impressively short 12 seconds, before trying to blow up Toretto and cop-turned-criminal Bryan O’Connor.
Toretto and O’Connor, played by stoney voiced Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker, are then contacted by a government agent, portrayed by Kurt Russell, who tasks them with a secret mission. With series regulars Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson added to the mix, they set off a chain reaction which includes, amongst other things, a high-speed chase through Eastern Europe’s mountains and insane car jumps with the Abu Dhabi skyline as the back drop.
Fast and Furious 7 is nothing but fun from beginning to end. It masterfully treads the line between a serious approach and a self-aware one, balancing dramatic fist fights and gravity defying jumps with a good level of focus on a narrative that’s interesting enough to take seriously. The cast turn in some fantastic performances, being rough and rambunctious yet respectively serious when they’re acting with one of Walker’s stand-ins. It’s impressive how well the film can go from out-of-control to solemn without feeling disjointed, and by the end it serves as an excellent tribute to Walker’s memory.
The action is well staged and well shot, although there are differences in the way new director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) handles the camera. At points it seems as though Fast and Furious 7 is being swept up in the quick cut, shaky camera style that pervades the action genre. To his credit Wan knows what the audience wants to see and gives them a decent helping of excellently rendered CGI explosions and the franchise’s signature stunt work. The film can be a little saturated and bombastic at points and the soft-core nudity brazenly targets the film’s male demographic, but these are forgivable flaws that don’t majorly detract.
One of the strongest entries in the franchise and one of the better big budget movies of the year, Fast and Furious 7 verges on complete lunacy but still keeps itself fresh enough to attract new viewers, while being true enough to the series to appease long-time fans. – Joseph Papandrea
Top photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.