When The Fast and the Furious franchise first started back in 2001, I don’t think anyone could’ve expected that the series would become the hugely successful blockbuster franchise that it is today. But yet, here we are, with Furious 7 hitting theaters and somehow proving that this is a franchise that still has a lot of life left in it.
The series has become famous, or perhaps infamous, for its hysterically over-the-top stunts and ridiculous action sequences, and through some sort of magic I won’t pretend to understand, Furious 7 manages to not only outdo everything that’s come before, but also provide the late-actor Paul Walker with a perfectly poignant send-off.
The story picks up shortly after the events of the previous film, as the ruthless government assassin Deckard Shaw, played here by the always intense Jason Statham, sets his sights on Dominic “Dom” Toretto and his crew after they defeated Deckard’s younger brother at the end of Fast and Furious 6.
However, as fans of the series know, the story is never the focus of these movies, but rather acts as a spring board to throw the characters into another over-the-top adventure. The film gives the audience just enough story material to get them interested, and then immediately launches into a series of increasingly far-fetched action sequences that build up into an explosive crescendo of a climax.
The action is the best it’s ever been, partially thanks to director James Wan, whose creative and energetic camera work makes the already diverse fight scenes even better. For those looking for a complex, layered plot, they will be inevitably disappointed, but for anyone looking for a mindless good time, then this is the movie for you.
Whether it’s a firefight, a brutal hand-to-hand showdown, or two cars racing down the side of a cliff, Furious 7 never tries to take itself seriously, but instead focuses on delivering the biggest and most bombastic action scenes humanly imaginable. Reality doesn’t even begin to apply to the movie, but if you’re willing to just enjoy the craziness, then Furious 7 will not disappoint.
All of the characters from the series that the audience has grown to love are back and better than ever, and the fun, playful dynamic that they share once again makes an otherwise ridiculous action flick surprisingly heartfelt. The endless stream of one-liners and jokes are consistently funny, and go a long way in grounding the characters in an otherwise fantastically over-the-top movie.
However, the antagonist unfortunately becomes somewhat of a letdown in the end. While Deckard Shaw is a fun villain to watch, he’s also shallow and flat as a character, and does little more than scowl angrily throughout his scenes. Jason Statham makes the best of it though, and excels in his brutal fight scenes so well that his boring character can be mostly overlooked.
As for the rest of the cast, if you’ve ever seen a Fast and the Furious movie, you’ll know what to expect from them. Little has changed in the dynamic, but they’re still just as lovable as they’ve ever been. Vin Diesel still grumbles through his lines, but his commitment to the role is admirable, and it’s his gruff yet still sincere character that holds the rest of the team together.
Also returning to the cast is Dwayne Johnson as the hulking DSS agent Luke Hobbs, who undoubtedly has the very best lines in the whole movie. As over-the-top as his character may be, Johnson is such a likable performer that he makes it almost impossible to not laugh along with him as he drops fantastic one-liners at every available opportunity.
Even newcomers Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russel fit right in with the cast, as they each brought their own strengths to the core group dynamic. While Kurt Russel’s character, who’s literally referred to as Mr. Nobody, is cliched and ridiculous, Russel is having such a good time with it that it’s hard to complain.
Nathalie Emmanuel doesn’t fare quite as well as Russel, as she spends the first half of the film as little more than a damsel in distress, but by the end she comes into her own a bit more and actually has some nice chemistry with the cast, specifically Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Chris Bridge’s Tej.
Unfortunately, Furious 7 also marks Paul Walker’s final on-screen performance before his death in late 2013, and as a result, his character Brian O’Connor’s story had to come to an end. Furious 7 handles the issue delicately, and provides both the character and the actor with a genuinely heartfelt and emotional send-off that even elicited some applause from the audience sharing the theater with me.
While Furious 7 will not be for everybody, if you’re already a fan of the series or just looking for a fun escape from reality, then this is the movie for you. It may run a little long, and could’ve benefited from a tighter climax, but it is still an uproariously entertaining ride from start to finish, and is sure to please both old and new fans alike.