Fast & Furious 7
Kind of like the Hulk: The More Ridiculous the Fast & Furious Series Gets, the Stronger it Gets
(Warning: mild spoilers) Furious 7 hits the ground driving…literally. There’s actually a scene where they parachute cars out of a military cargo plane and hit the ground driving. Because…why not? Vin Diesel and the gang are back, and they’re breaking everything from international law, bones, and the laws of physics.
It’s very easy to slip into the saga’s passenger’s side and enjoy the ride of the current installment featuring Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his merry band of gearhead thieves with (somewhat) hearts of gold. Don’t worry. If you need exposition as to what’s going on, because you’re not caught up on the previous six films, you can bet the popcorn resting on your lap that you’ll get it. Newcomer to the series, Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) as hacker Megan Ramsey even sums up each character and all their traits in one of few scenes that allows pause from the many action sequences.
The movie’s cold open begins with Jason Statham (basically cast as Jason Statham, but for story’s sake, the script gave him the name Deckard Shaw) visiting his comatose brother, Owen Shaw (villain to the previous movie, and still played by Luke Evans) in the hospital. I was kind of surprised the visit wasn’t to the character’s grave. I clearly remember, from the previous film Owen Shaw being thrown at high velocity from a speeding military cargo plane onto a runway. But, that’s the one rule you have to remember when viewing a Fast & Furious film. Every character (And I mean every character) is the toughest sumbitch on the planet. So what would clearly kill a regular human being (even at top physical condition) is nothing to these people. Though the series always had a cheesy quality with characters and their macho dialogue, it was the fifth installment where the writers, and Director Justin Lin, decided the series shouldn’t take itself too seriously, and that upped the ante for enjoying the fun. Tough, cheesy dialogue, and tougher than nails characters became somewhat caricature-ish, but it’s understood the films’ producers were very much aware. Though Justin Lin has handed directing duties off to James Wan (marking Furious 7 as the third movie not directed by Lin), the tradition continues, leaving only fun in its wake.
So, supposedly Owen Shaw is brain dead. And sure, truthfully he should be dust and ash, hard to identify, even from dental records. But there he is, lying on the bed, with all limbs intact and a few scars on his face. That’s when Jason Statham grumbles into a phone, swearing vengeance against “the team that crippled [his] brother.” From there we witness the awesome might of Deckard ‘Jason Statham’ Shaw on full display. Following Deckard, we’re taken through a series of rooms, viewing the aftermath from the latest badass villain in the franchise. Bodies lay bullet ridden and broken, hospital furniture looks much the same, and we have fires burning for no reason, most likely lit from the sheer badassery that is Deckard ‘Jason Statham’ Shaw. Exposition is handed to us in a newsflash that this was a secure hospital, so the need for such an attack (by one man trying to visit his brother) was completely necessary. And if we weren’t convinced how hardcore this man Deckard can be, not one scene later he’s going toe-to-toe with U.S. DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson). A crash through a window, saving his partner, and landing softly on the steel roof of a car, sidelines Hobbs for most of the film. But don’t worry. He’s just resting, getting himself ready for the big tussle at the end. But bed rest is doctor’s orders, and Luke Hobbs is a soldier. And soldiers. Follow. Orders.
Hurricane Deckard continues his path of destruction, living up to his vow of crippling Dom Torreto’s team of racing, vigilante misfits. Next up are some well-timed explosions, and the series finally comes full circle with a particular team member’s death, as parts 4, 5, and 6 took place before Tokyo Drift. Dom, Brian (Paul Walker), and Mia (Jordana Brewster) survive the hit made on them, forcing Dom to visit Hobbs in the hospital to get answers. With the attacks, we’re reminded that the heart of the Fast & Furious movies is a story about family, or at least, the movie attempts to write some sentimentality into the two and a half hours of explosions, car chases, fist fights, and shootouts. There’s also the subplot of Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) memory coming back in disturbing flashes as she struggles to remember her place in this family.
It doesn’t take long for Deckard and Dom to catch each other’s eye and pursue one another in a high speed chase. After a head-on car collision that plays like a kiss between lovers, Dom and Deckard get out and introduce themselves with the toughest dialogue known to man. Never mind they just slammed into one another doing a trillion miles per hour. This is Fast & Furious, and what’s the rule? Toughest sumbitches on the planet. Unfortunately their scrapping is postponed by Kurt Russell’s quirky, tuxedo wearing, covert ops leader and all of his trigger happy gunmen. Taking Dom into a secret base (or something), we’re given the plot, or rather the excuse for explosions and car chases. Kurt Russell’s character could’ve said he needed a pickup at a burger joint that needed the precise timing of a car speeding through the drive-thru at 90mph, I wouldn’t’ve cared, because plot isn’t the point. So, there’s something called God’s Eye, a massive surveillance program. There’s a hacker (played by Nathalie Emmanuel) who knows the location of God’s Eye, and how to use and override the surveillance program. At the moment, she needs to be rescued from an African terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) who is in pursuit, and wants control of, God’s Eye. She’s currently being transported on a high-tech prison bus driving through the Caucus Mountains. But how do they attempt to rescue her is the big question.
In another nod to exposition, former singer and current Facebook philosopher Tyrese Gibson, as comic relief character Roman Pearce, gives a greatest hits-like listing of the stunts the team has been involved in within the last three films, basically concluding: What’s next? Cue interior of military cargo jet and Dom’s crew ready for a helluva jump while riding the skies in muscle and sports cars. The parachute drop of cars (landing perfectly and speeding through forest and road) is only the beginning of a high-quality, law of physics defying scene, the type of which has come to be a signature with the franchise. Unfortunately, a good deal of the scene has been showcased in the trailers, but there’s a lot more to it, and seeing it on a big screen in its entirety doesn’t compare to a YouTube viewing. Deckard even manages to whittle his way into the scene, stirring up trouble with a capital F-U-N.
Not every heist lined up for Dom’s crew is laced with a “ride fast, smash‘n’grab” formula. There’s a good attempt to try and change up the planning and use stealth. Dom’s crew, this time around, gets their Ocean’s Eleven on while being dressed to the nines and infiltrating an Abu Dhabi billionaire’s party. Using their good looks to blend in, and relying on individual members’ skills to lead them to their prize, the fast and furious gang executes a sly tiptoe toward the item they seek. But this franchise doesn’t thrive on the silent treatment; and stealth never warranted a reason for fist fights, explosions and bullets. So it’s no surprise that security raises an eyebrow to the party’s newcomers. Enter UFC star Ronda Rousey playing head of security, equipped with a gold dress, all her muscle, a snarl toward Rodriguez’s Letty, and one poorly delivered line that will make you thank God for the loud music and the fighting that ensues shortly after. From there it’s a domino effect of all of the characters’ stealthy efforts coming to a loud end. Jason Statham continues his character’s tradition of showing up out of the blue, crashing the party, and shooting up the place with a giant gun. The crescendo of it all has been spoiled a bit by the movie’s trailers, but again, there’s nothing like seeing the stunts in context, extended, and on a big screen. This is far from the climax of the movie, and with two action sequences, plus the greatness that is Dwayne Johnson having to come back into the fold for a final sequence that looks to be louder, explosive, and hard hitting than the others. Oh, and Dom and Deckard get that fisticuff tussle that was so rudely interrupted before.
The movie ends with a very touching tribute to actor Paul Walker who unfortunately died while on hiatus from filming. The tribute is tied into the film’s storyline. Brian O’Connor, Walker’s character, now a father and husband struggles between being domesticated and the high-octane life of adventure. In the end, he settles down with family, and that choice leads to a blend of fiction and reality as both character and actor are saluted with a montage of scenes from the first film to the latest. He and Dom share one last race, side by side.
Furious 7 is as wild with adrenaline as the movies preceding it. It manages to keep its brand fresh with new stunts and action sequences that’ll leave its audiences wanting more. If there was a con to the film’s many pros, I would have to say some of the self-awareness is a little too in focus. Instead of the characters living in their world, there are cheesy lines of dialogue said as both winks to the audience and obvious cues of being a little too aware of itself. But those few moments aside, Furious 7 keeps the series on pace, speeding it up as every movie has managed to do. There’s no need to label the franchise as a guilty pleasure. Ridiculous, but stronger for it.