I was thinking…
…as the movie was already dedicated to Paul Walker, I would like to dedicate this review to my brother-in-law Vince, who passed away last October, less than a year after Walker’s death. Vince was a huge fan of The Fast and the Furious films and loved cars, racing and speed (as in moving quickly. Not meth). Whether it was souping up his Honda or racing dump trucks (yes, it’s actually a thing), he loved that world.
He wasn’t and isn’t alone. The Fast and the Furious franchise has amassed roughly $2.4 billion worldwide with Fast Five raking in over $600 million on its own. And there’s a better than even chance Furious 7 will surpass that amount, especially if the theaters see a turnout like the Wehrenberg Galaxy 14 in Bloomington, Illinois did. It was a packed house for the Furious 7 sneak preview on the Galaxy 14’s brand new IMAX screen. And that screen is just one of over 800 IMAX screens in the world set to premiere the film, setting a new record for a single IMAX release.
Furious 7 picks up exactly where the sixth film left off, with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel—Riddick) receiving a call from Han Seoul-Oh’s (Sung Kang—Bullet to the Head) killer, none other than Owen Shaw’s older brother, Deckard (Jason Statham—The Transporter). Determined to exact vengeance upon each one of Dom’s crew for their part in crippling his little brother, Deckard is also on the run from a government hit squad headed up by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell—Big Trouble in Little China).
Mr. Nobody strikes a deal with Dom, asking him to free the hacker-inventor of the God’s Eye, an über-surveillance device, from the clutches of a maniacal warlord named Jakande (Djimon Hounsou—Guardians of the Galaxy). In return, Mr. Nobody promises to let Dom utilize the device in order to track down Deckard and end the threat he poses–permanently.
So, mustering his men (and woman, in the form of Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty), Dom sets out to the Caucasus Mountains to execute a daring prison break.
And that’s pretty much only the beginning. From L.A. to Eastern Europe to the United Arab Emirates and back again, Furious 7 globe trots in a very James Bond-ian vein and even throws in some gold painted dancers, a la Goldfinger, to boot.
Of course there are also plenty of really fast cars, lots of shooting, tons of explosions and–a staple of the franchise–close-ups of scantily clad women’s rear ends.
The issues that plague this film are the same ones that have plagued the franchise since the start, unfortunately. Despite Vin Diesel’s claims that, “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars…” nowhere in Furious 7 are there Oscar-worthy performances. The often cheesy, David Caruso-worthy one-liners may be to blame for some of this lack of thespian skill, but somehow I doubt that.
Then there are the ridiculously impossible stunts. But at least the five story drop onto a parked car was not followed up with the line, “It’s a good thing that car was there to break our fall,” as it was in the sixth film. And Agent Hobbs’ (Dwayne Johnson–Get Smart) contribution was more than a little tacked on. I am a firm believer that he should stick to doing comedies and leave playing the straight and serious roles to those with more, how shall I put it, professional gravitas. But I digress.
If one puts those issues aside, attributing them to simply being the conventional mainstays of the action genre, then Furious 7 easily surges past its predecessors. Whether its through the stunts or the hand-to-hand fights, the film enters a new world–one of which the previous films could only merely dream.
Furthermore, the wise-cracking duo of Tej and Roman (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Tyrese Gibson respectively) achieve a new level of hilarity. Statham expertly handles the role of the antagonist. And Rodriguez (and this is difficult for me to admit) did not make me want to punch her in the face at all. That’s never happened before.
But without a doubt, the crowning moments of the film were those in which Paul Walker’s Brain O’Conner took the screen. Even though he engaged in two fights with Muay Thai wunderkind Tony Jaa and jumped both from and onto multiple wheeled conveyances, it was the non-action filled minutes that carried the most weight.
It is fairly well known that with Walker’s death occurring with half the film left to put in the can, a combination of computer-generated work, fraternal stand-ins and a rewritten ending were necessary in order to wrap production. But it was that re-written ending that made the film a fitting eulogy for Walker, culminating with a beautiful final scene and wonderfully poignant final frame.
I thought of both Paul Walker and my own lost brother Vince in that moment.
And I know the two of them are racing cloud cars in Heaven right now.
Ammo Dump rating: 7 out of 10 nitrous tanks
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show. Listen in every Friday afternoon starting at 4:10 on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on WJBC.com or the “iHeartRadio” app on your smart phone. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @ALphaEXray.
Run time: 134 minutes