Furious 7

Who knew cars could fly? Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell star in Furious 7.

Furious 7Cast of Characters:
Dominic Toretto – Vin Diesel
Brian O’Connor – Paul Walker
Agent Luke Hobbs – Dwayne Johnson
Letty Ortiz – Michelle Rodriguez
Roman Pearce – Tyrese Gibson
Tej Parker – Chris “Ludacris” Bridges
Mia Toretto – Jordana Brewster
Jakande – Djimon Hounsou
Kiet – Tony Jaa
Kara – Ronda Rousey
Megan Ramsey – Nathalie Emmanuel
Frank Petty – Kurt Russell
Deckard Shaw – Jason Statham

Director – James Wan
Screenplay – Chris Morgan
Based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Producer – Neal H. Moritz & Vin Diesel
Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language

After defeating Owen Shaw and his crew, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and their crew return home where everything returns to normal for them.

Well, for just a brief moment.

Seeking revenge for his brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) arrives on the scene, and has a not-so-nice run in with Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) that leaves Hobbs in the hospital. In response, Dom and the rest of the gang are called upon by Hobbs and U.S. government operative Frank Petty (Kurt Russell) to track down to Shaw.

I won’t sugarcoat it. The first four films of the Fast & Furious franchise were crap. Yet while not a fan, it’s still more than fitting that the late Paul Walker’s final film be one within the nearly $3 billion franchise he was a part of for most of his career. And although I didn’t really like the fifth and sixth films as much as everyone else did, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 at least began to shown some signs of improvement over its sleek yet utterly inept predecessors. Adding Dwayne Johnson, one of the most charming and charismatic action stars in film today, to the mix certainly helped, but mostly it was ’cause the films became more and more self-aware to how brainless they really are and embraced it.

Following in the footsteps of the last two films, Furious 7 is both Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 on a week-long Red Bull and speed binge.

“That has got to be the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!”, says Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pearce. His quote aptly describes this film. It’s ridiculous, loud and dumb, but the film knows it and has fun with that fact, and I found myself entertained more here than I was with any of the previous six films, and certainly more than the first four combined.

Directed by James Wan, who up to this point has mostly directed horror films such as Saw, Dead Silence, The Conjuring and both Insidious films, Furious 7 starts at over-the-top and gives it an additional adrenaline shot. Cars spend more time soaring through the air then rolling down the road, laws of physics are shattered into oblivion (MythBusters could spend about 10 seasons debunking action sequences in just this movie alone) and characters walk away unscathed from extreme, life-threatening situations dangerous enough to put the Hulk in a body cast.

And he fell from the sky and survived in The Avengers.

Being his first foray into the action genre, Wan’s transition from horror isn’t entirely smooth. This is definitely a case of him aiming to prove himself by going the more is better route, and the result is an overcrowded film. It’s not really the more complex than it needs to be plot, revolving around a hacking program that can spy on any person in the world at any time, as much as it is Wan and writer Chris Morgan (who penned all the Fast & Furious films since Tokyo Drift) not being satisfied with just Jason Statham as the villain. The extra villains, two of which are played by Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou (playing the same one-note, pissed off assassin he’s played for the past five or so years), add nothing to film and only take time away from Statham whose character’s motive of revenge is perfect for a film like this. When in doubt, keep it simple and whip out the “avenging my brother” storyline from the Simon Gruber playbook.

Despite the film’s problems, Wan delivers enough crazy fights, car crashes and death-cheating stunts (believe it or not, Diesel flying a car in between two Abu Dhabi skyscrapers is like the tenth most insane moment of the film) to keep us all entertained. Those that have seen his previous films (The Conjuring, in particular) know quite well how skilled he is at putting together a nifty looking shot, and he doesn’t disappoint in that area (a thrilling, plausibility stretching sequence involving Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez on the edge of a cliff is sure to elicit cheers from the audience). He may not have the franchise experience that Justin Lin (who directed the Fast & Furious films from Tokyo Drift to Fast & Furious 6) had, but for being out of his element, it’s solid direction from him.

No one should expect a performance showcase from anyone here, but the cast does fine and everyone gets their own moment or two to have the spotlight, serving up humor and uber-cheesy one-liners (such as Johnson’s, “Woman… I am the cavalry!”) that help keep the fun going when the cars are parked and not going full throttle. It is nice to see Kurt Russell back on the big screen, his first time since Tarantino’s Death Proof (he’ll be back again later this year in another Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight). Russell gives what could’ve been an obligatory stiff government agent role some flair and chops, while also proving, albeit briefly, he can still kick ass with a weapon like he did back in the day in Escape from New York and The Thing.

Even though he is underused during the entire second-act, Statham still makes an effective villain, and is certainly a step up from the dreadfully flat character Luke Evans (a talented actor, but wasted in that role) portrayed in the previous film. Despite his rather inconsistent film career, no one can deny Statham’s action star presence, which lets itself known the moment he arrives onscreen. Seeing him go mano a mano against two other in-demand action stars, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel (whose fights occur at the beginning and ending, respectively) is a lot of fun, and provides a thrill for moviegoers much like the nostalgic kick viewers got from seeing Stallone fight Van Damme in The Expendables 2.

Of course, as the film draws to a close, it’s impossible for viewers to not be reminded of Paul Walker’s fate. Prior to his tragic death a year and a half ago, Walker completed roughly 85% of his scenes for this film, which were then finished with his brothers Caleb and Cody used as stand-ins for long and medium shots, as well as some CGI for Walker’s face and voice (a couple quick shots during the final scenes are jarringly noticeable). His death could’ve felt like a distraction throughout the entire film, but for most of the film it’s business as usual, and it’s not until the closing-act that we’re reminded of his passing. When those moments do arrive, Wan, Morgan and the cast all handle it respectfully by way of a closing tribute montage to Walker.

Though it suffers from too many villains and an overstuffed plot, for all its faults, Furious 7 is able to compensate for them by offering exactly what it promises – stunts and actions sequences so ridiculously over-the-top it makes Marvel’s cinematic universe look like Downton Abbey. Director James Wan may be new to the action genre, but he manages to execute enough eye-popping action setpieces that are sure to entertain, while also giving Paul Walker a touching bowing out of a franchise he undoubtedly was so passionate about.

I give Furious 7 a B- (★★★).

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