There’s an inherent silliness that has been embraced by the past three movies in the Fast and Furious series. On its path toward becoming one of the most iconic movie franchises of a generation, it has evolved from muscle-bound car racing stories to muscle-bound car heist movies. This distinction has allowed the Fast films, under the shepherding of producer Neal H. Moritz and screenwriter Chris Morgan, to accomplish something unprecedented: each one is better than the last.
Seriously, name another franchise that has improved on its 5th and 6th incarnation in the same way. It’s an unprecedented accomplishment. The question now becomes about whether or not they can continue to improve with the release of Furious 7. In short, the answer is yes. Even before we consider the circumstances of its creation, the movie itself plays out as one hell of a ride. The action is bombastic and frantic as ever, the scale is immense and in the end, it left me exhausted (in a good way, so far as I can tell).
That said, there’s something eerie about the entire experience, an added level of anxiety added by the loss of Paul Walker. Watching a movie that stars someone who recently passed away is always a heavy-hearted experience, especially if that someone is a cornerstone of a beloved franchise. But watching a movie in which someone who died in such a manner is constantly in a state of vehicular danger is absolutely surreal. I don’t want to give anything away, as fans of this franchise have earned the right to see it play out with fresh eyes, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the handling of the passing of Paul Walker, within the context of the film, is done with the utmost reverence. There’s no way to walk away with any other impression from the film than the fact that everyone involved in the franchise loved Paul Walker very much.
The only thing holding Furious 7 back from being a speeding bullet is a little bit of plot clunkiness. It’s clear that this movie, mostly due to its tragic circumstances, went through a number of revisions. No one it going to blame the film for having some tonal and pacing issues, but they do exist. There aren’t enough great character moments, mostly because the story feels so patched together.
The one thing Furious doesn’t lack, however, is action. The action in this movie is monumentally bonkers. There’s a skydiving with cars sequence, one scene involving a car jumping between the towers of a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi, and as expected, several big car chase numbers. There are fights. Ong Bak star Tony Jaa shows up among the bad guys to do his thing. UFC star Ronda Rousey shows up to be the latest in the long line of prominent female badasses who must fight Michelle Rodriguez in this series. And Kurt Russell shows up as a mysterious government man with a few tricks up his sleeve. It’s staggering to think that everyone gets their own great moment. This is in addition to the returning cast of Vin Diesel, Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Dwayne Johnson. There is so much action in this movie that every single one of these core characters – plus a few newcomers – each get their moment to shine.
Heavy-hearted, lead footed and energetic as hell, this James Wan directed joint fits right into the franchise. It’s an imperfect monster, one that has forsaken the franchises roots in practical car violence for CGI insanity, but it’s also exactly what fans of the Fast and Furious films are looking for. You’d do well to see it, if you have the interest, on opening weekend with a big crowd in the loudest auditorium possible. There will be moments of awe, somber goodbyes and best of all, endless destruction of property.
The Upside: Bonkers action, heavy-hearted moments and a larger-than-life scope carry on the spirit of an iconic franchise.
The Downside: From a story standpoint, it suffers from having to be rewritten, reshot and remolded due to its tragic behind the scenes circumstances.
On the Side: To finish the film following the passing of Paul Walker, the production enlisted the help of Paul’s brothers Cody and Caleb.