Furious 7 Review
Of all the series that I thought could reach a seventh film in a franchise, the Fast & Furious series is not one I would have picked for that distinction. I had not gotten on board with the franchise until the 6th film, and even that film isn’t perfect. Still, I really enjoyed Furious 6. I enjoyed it enough that I was willing to go to the theater and see the new film: Furious 7. Ultimately, I think it’s not as good as 6, but it’s still better than any of the others. If you want to know more, than read on.
A summary of the plot requires a review of the events of Furious 6. In that film, Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew of car heroes confronted an evil car gang led by Shaw (Luke Evans) and including Toretto’s ex Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who through ridiculous contrivances survived a fairly apparent death in the fourth film and came back with no memory. At the end of the film, Dom and his gang get Letty back, without her memory, and throw Shaw out of a burning airplane. Cut to this film, and apparently Shaw somehow survived the ending, even though series regular Gisele (Gal Gadot) apparently died in a similar manner that was less gruesome, and we see him unconscious in a hospital where he meet his older, scarier brother (played Jason Statham). The older Shaw vows revenge and we open the movie with him walking out of the hospital having apparently killed many of the staff and destroying large portions of the building. Eventually, Shaw attacks Dom and badly injures him and apparently kills another series regular, Han (Sung Kang), which alters one of the better parts of the third movie, Tokyo Drift. Shaw escapes, and we’re then introduced to Mr. Nobody (Kurt Douglass), a CIA operative who offers to help Dom find Shaw if he and his car heroes help him retrieve a MacGuffin device called the God’s Eye and the computer hacker who created it, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), from a warlord (Djimon Honsou). From there, ridiculous car stunts and insane action set-pieces abound.
I apologize if the plot summary sounds overly complicated, but it’s unavoidable. This is the seventh film in a series that has an inexplicably dense continuity that affects the plot. Unfortunately, having so much plot from previous movies has not stopped Furious 7 from repeating elements from earlier entries in the franchise. The fact that Statham is playing the brother of the previous film’s antagonist is an obvious one, and the fact that Letty has a fisticuffs with noted UFC fighter Ronda Rousey is clearly only there because Letty fought another UFC fighter, Gina Carano, in the last film. Further, the film’s plot is ultimately just an overly complicated heist movie, like the 5th film, except that Statham and Russell are required to set it in motion this time. While having familiar elements is fine, The Fast & Furious franchise has gotten to the point where I can enjoy them by growing ever more ridiculous and insane in each film and decreasing the boredom element. Repeating elements runs the risk of draining that momentum and returning to the boredom of the first few entries.
The only real innovations are in the action scenes, and luckily these are incredibly ridiculous and fun to watch. Physics do not exist in this movie, but watching Dom’s crew use cars to skydive onto a road to attack a prisoner transport or watching Vin Diesel drive a super high-end sports car between tall glass skyscrapers 50 stories up in Dubai are sufficiently entertaining to keep me going in the film. Luckily there are very few parts where the film slows down and thus you don’t have to think about the stupid and ridiculous plot machinations. The parts in between are buoyed up by decently amusing banter between series mainstays like Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris (yes, you heard me), and the occasional funny visual gag like watching Agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) use an ambulance to take out a predator drone and then pull out the drone’s gun and use it on a helicopter. If it weren’t for the insanity of the action scenes and the degree to which the actors play the material straight with just enough knowing humor to make it fun, this film would have been unbearable.
Unfortunately, the two weakest points in the film are Diesel and noted action movie star, Jason Statham. Both of them are fairly good action stars, and they approach the material with the right balance of humor and gravitas, but the script doesn’t give either of them much to do to keep them entertaining. Statham is required to set the plot in motion, and he occasionally shows up to interfere with the plot, but other than that the film is not about him and he’s eclipsed by the secondary villain played by Honsou in the climax. Diesel basically spends the movie trying to fix other people’s problems, like how his best friend Brian (played by noted block of wood Paul Walker) is waffling on continuing to help Dom when he’s married to Dom’s sister (played by Jordana Brewster) who’s currently pregnant with his second child, or how Letty’s memories keep coming and going and the inconsistency is torturing her. Again, all of these are semi-interesting plot threads for the other characters, but Diesel doesn’t have anything for him to do. The new characters played by Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel are far more interesting and the actors are clearing having enough fun with the roles to keep the audience entertained. Even Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbes has better moments as he interacts with his precociously cute daughter who he worries about because she takes after him so much. Also, the fact that the ultimate climax of Diesel and Statham’s conflict is a brawl using pipes and wrenches on top of a parking structure that gets concluded by the other bad guy is not exactly a thrilling climax.
Strangely, the best parts of the film are with Paul Walker’s character, which I guess is appropriate considering his tragic death before this film was released. He has the most emotional character moments, he has a lot of the best action beats, and he even has his own personal antagonist in the form of the mercenary Kiet (Tony Jaa), which has a much more satisfying conclusion than the Diesel/Statham conflict. Also, it’s a testament to the CGI in this film that there were apparently several scenes in this film that had to be added digitally after Walker’s death, and I can’t tell which scenes are which. Ultimately, since this is the last film with Walker’s character in it, I guess it makes sense that he had the best parts and they sent him out the best way they could.
In the end, I’m more positive on Furious 7 than negative. It’s stupid and ridiculous, sure, but so are the rest of the films in this series, and this one, like Furious 6, at least had the good sense to keep me entertained with funny banter and plenty of absurd, ridiculous action sequences. Unfortunately, the film’s main star and villain are eclipsed by side characters and subplots, and too many elements of the story feel like repetitions of earlier entries in the franchise, which cuts into the enjoyment factor significantly. Still, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s still the second best film in the series. So, I think it’s worth a look.
Furious 7 is not as good as the previous movie, but it's still better than any of the others. It's insane action sequences and ridiculous thrills are balanced with some engaging banter and decent character moments for some of the side characters. The weaker elements revolve around Diesel and Statham and how repetitive the film's plot is for the franchise at this point. At least worth one viewing if you're still with the franchise at this point.