Fast & Furious 7 (2015)
In a move that mirrors Skynet’s terrifying rise of the machines, the Fast and the Furious franchise has become self-aware. As a series, it’s been doing this since the soft reboot 4th instalment, the confusingly titled “Fast and Furious”, testing more and more outlandish elements with each film. I think Furious 7 is them fully embracing the ridiculous and rolling with it.
Enraged by his brother’s defeat, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) attempts to kill Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family. Cue vrooms and booms. When I said that this film embraces the ridiculous, I wasn’t just talking about the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and the physics-defying stunts. It applies to nearly all aspects, including the plot. The whole thing plays out like a dumb Bond film i.e. a globetrotting adventure with plenty of opportunities for mayhem against exotic backdrops. The plot revolves around a program called the God’s Eye that can track anyone, anywhere. It’s basically a more sophisticated version of Lucius Fox’s sonar thing in The Dark Knight. Our heroes are informed that if they acquire the God’s Eye, they may use it to track down the Stath. All well and good, but what is the point in hunting a man who keeps turning up to kill them? He tracks them across the world. He’s doing all the legwork. If they used it to get a heads-up on where he would strike next, that would have made more sense. As hypocritical as it is for this statement to be said by someone who almost exclusively whinges about narrative, the plot really isn’t important. It’s there as a vague framework for our heroes to bicker and for shit to blow up. I’m totally fine with that.
The death of Paul Walker hangs over Furious 7. There’s a touching realism added to the series’ themes of family and togetherness. I think they did a fantastic job of moulding the film around Walker’s absence and apart from a few off-feeling phone conversations Brian has, he’s convincingly part of the narrative. The film can’t be what they initially set out to make, but the film we do get doesn’t feel too compromised. The way they handle Brian’s departure from the series is beautifully done and genuinely tear-jerking. It’s a fitting tribute and it pulls double time as both a goodbye to the character and the actor. In my Fast & Furious 6 review, I was a bit cruel about the series’ theme of family, basically saying that repeating the word “family” wasn’t enough for me to buy into it. Paul Walker’s death and the effect it had on Furious 7 has removed that issue for me. Every utterance of the word “family” has a palpable tragedy and a deeper meaning attached. Not only does it not feel like a lazy plot device any more, it feels necessary to pay tribute to a lost friend. I’m now fully on board with them being like a family and it’s just a shame it took real life butting its ugly head in to do it.
I love the fact that F&F has evolved into a better version of The Expendables. It’s a real ensemble piece and I was glad to see the familiar crew again. Kurt Russell shows up as Mr. Nobody, a government man who is an eyepatch away from being Nick Fury (or Snake Plissken). I’m imagining he’ll feature in further F&Fs. Good thing too, because he seems to be enjoying every second. I was a little disappointed in the Stath’s role in proceedings. He’s a cool enough baddie, but there’s just nothing much about him. Shaw is rather generic and just shows up when the film needs some shit to go down. He has some funny interactions with The Rock’s Agent Hobbs early on, but as soon as the globetrotting begins, he’s just a British T-1000. I wanted him to really chew the scenery, but he never really got the chance. The Rock is a series regular now, but I want to mention how goddamn great he is. He’s in the film intermittently, but he makes use of every second. There is a brilliant moment where he cracks his arm cast by the power of flexing after uttering the line “Daddy’s got to go to work” that is so retro and awesome that it already ranks up there with some of the more testosterone-pumping moments of action classics like Predator. The image of him wielding a minigun is also badass.
I think Furious 7 may have a series best action setpiece. The sequence starts with the crew skydiving out of the back of a plane in their cars to attack a motorcade on treacherous mountain roads. The whole thing is unbelievably well choreographed and shot and it just keeps ramping up the stakes until you can’t take no more. One of my favourite things about the franchise now is that no idea is too ridiculous. They’ll just go for it if they think it’ll entertain. Best example of this is during the motorcade sequence when the chased bus’s side panels open revealing a row of remote miniguns. I cackled with glee at each fun twist and turn. The film has many other action bits, but none top the early scene. James Wan can definitely shoot car action, but I’m not sold on his hand-to-hand fighting chops. The camera work is a lot more frenetic and it can be tough to tell who is who. I like the trick he does by locking the camera on someone falling through the air, especially when it’s used to follow The Stath getting Rock Bottomed through a glass table.
I really enjoyed Fast & Furious 7. It’s easy to be snobby about it, but I think there’s room for big, dumb fun in this fucking awful world. If the tone and quality continues, I could watch this series forever. Recommended.