‘The Fast and the Furious’ series has grown into something I couldn’t have possibly anticipated when I saw the first film back in the summer of 2001. Admittedly, it took me a while to come around to this series. When I saw ‘Fast Five’, I knew I was in and I’ve been with the series ever since. To paraphrase something I said in my review of ‘Fast & Furious 6’, this is a franchise that doesn’t abide by Newton’s Laws of Motion or The Laws of Diminishing Returns – it’s designed to make your jaw drop, and steal your breath.
By the time I’ve written this review (10 p.m. on April 15th, 2015), ‘Furious 7’ will have grossed $262.5 million domestically and $548 million overseas. Many of you have already seen this movie. Those of you who plan on seeing ‘Furious 7’ don’t need a rundown of the plot, so I won’t bother with a synopsis in this review. At this point, you know what to expect of the series.
If you think you have seen it all by 2015, you have not. Two cars veer into perfect parallel formation as a body slips from the window of one car through the window of the other. Cars are dropped out of planes. An armored car tumbles down a mountain. Two characters drive head-on to each other multiple times and crawl out of the shambles for a mano a mano. A character shatters his arm cast by flexing his muscles.
In 2013, Paul Walker died before production of ‘Furious 7’ was finished. His work was completed by his two brothers as stand-ins and digital wizardry and yet he appears to be a fully integrated component of the narrative. I couldn’t tell the real Paul Walker from the digital conglomerate (though there were instances towards the end where the camera shoots him from behind). The biggest laugh I had in ‘Furious 7’ involved Walker’s character revving the engine of what turns out to be a minivan that then travels a distance of approximately 2 feet. He wasn’t a great actor but these movies didn’t require that of him or any of the other cast members. What they lack in actorly import they more than compensate for in charisma; they have a lived-in comfort with each other. The screenplay unremittingly mentions family and loyalty and these characters are completely believable as one.
Thrown into the mix is Jason Statham playing the brother of the villain from ‘Fast and Furious 6’ (seeing The Rock slam him through a glass coffee table generated thunderous applause), and Kurt Russell as the covert operations lead. There is also Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Nathalie Emmnuel among many others. Its international audience is kept in mind and they are strapped in.
Part of the plot involves rescuing a hacker who has invented a global tracking device called The God’s Eye. Last year ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’ also tackled the subject of surveillance-based weaponry and was clear about its ethical stance towards it. It’s a topic of the now – our right to privacy and the fears we have of government agencies mining our private data. ‘Furious 7’ doesn’t have delusions of grandeur; the God’s eye is used as a device and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Few action movies achieve this level of inventiveness in the stunt work. The series moves from one film to the next with the goal of outperforming the absurd heights established by its predecessor in terms of gargantuan-scale action. Take a look at Vin Deisel’s and Paul Walker’s faces as they fly through all three of the Jumeirah at Etihad towers. Their look is likely to match yours. The most elaborate set piece in a contemporary action film would only rank as the fifth or sixth most impressive set piece in this picture.
When it was announced that James Wan would be sitting in the director’s chair previously occupied by Justin Lin for the last nine years, I had my concerns. I wasn’t sure if the man behind the slow-burn camerawork of ‘Saw’, ‘Death Sentence’, ‘Insidious’, and ‘The Conjuring’ would be “fast” enough for this franchise. He has mastered all the visual elements involved in generating suspense. For all the sped up kinetics, there’s rarely any disorder; the action unfolds coherently. The camera angles are wide enough to register the cars (puns always intended) and bodies in the frame.
‘Furious 7’ speeds up to deliver spectacular thrills and slows down for touching moments. I certainly wasn’t expecting the film’s final moments to leave a lump in my throat. The series may continue without Paul Walker. But, if this really is the end, all involved are bowing out on the highest note possible. ‘Furious 7’ is going to be hard to top as the *most* movie of 2015 – it was the perfect sendoff for Walker. QED.