What began as a shameless Point Break knockoff featuring souped up cars in place of surfboards has grown into a multi-million dollar freight train of a franchise. Way back when, The Fast and the Furious franchise began its life as a Roger Corman type B picture highlighting the tale of an undercover cop questioning his own code of conduct as he finds himself indoctrinated by the ragtag band of criminals he was supposed to be investigating. A mere seven films later and you would be hard pressed to see the roots of where this franchise once began.
Justin Lin's Fast Five did incredibly well to reinvent the franchise, moving it away from the sub-culture of underground street racing and morphing it into an Ocean's Eleven style heist film. Now with Justin Lin departing the directors chair, James Wan (Saw, Insidious) steps up to the directors chair and continues to reinvent the franchise into something that even less resembles the original film.
Furious 7 doesn't just jump the shark, it jumps three skyscrapers along the way. After the events of the last film, Dom (Vin Diesel) and his team of loveable misfits find themselves the targets of a revenge plot orchestrated by extremist militant Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). However, Shaw proves to be more than Dom can handle leaving Dom and his team to partner up with a shady government official known only as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).
Mr. Nobody heads a special task force assigned the mission of hunting down the creator of a computer program called 'the God's Eye', a highly sophisticated program that can turn any mobile phone into a surveillance device. Mr. Nobody offers Dom and his team a deal they can't refuse, he will help them track down Shaw in return for their services aiding the task force.
If you couldn't tell, Furious 7 is as loud and dumb as you might have expected it to be and then some. The plot is entirely gonzo, the dialog ranges from so bad it's good to downright eye-roll worthy, and the action is so insanely removed from the laws of physics that it might as well be a Saturday morning cartoon. However, I would be lying if I said it wasn't ridiculously fun for all of those reasons.
The set pieces have been amped way up to eleven in need to top the last movie because jumping a car through the nose of a 747 airplane just wasn't enough. Whether it be skydiving cars out of a moving plane or jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper in Abu Dhabi to pitting Michelle Rodriguez against Rhonda Rousey in a one on one fist fight, Furious 7 does well to re-adjust the goal post of impossible standards set by the last film. Perhaps doing it a little too well.
In that constant need to top the previous film, one can't help but fear that it's all going a little too far into the realm of self-parody. What once started as a group of ragtag yet grounded criminals with hearts made of gold has turned into an ensemble of indestructible superheroes who look like they're ready to audition for a place in the Avengers.
Marred only by moments of tediously written and overacted soap opera worthy drama. Furious 7 is at its best when it is embracing its own stupidity for all its worth but, unfortunately, screenwriter Chris Morgan feels the need to inject a dose of unwanted drama by continuing the weakest plot thread of the previous film being Letty's (Michelle Rodriguez) all too convenient memory loss. Shared moments between Dom and Letty that were meant to be touching play with a layer of thick soap opera staccato. Diesel and Rodriguez are far from being accomplished thespians leaving these moments of stilted drama to remind us just how ridiculous the movie really is.
Still, when it plays to its strengths as an incredibly dumb but fun action movie then it delivers in spades. Kurt Russell is a welcomed breath of fresh air playing the Mr. Wolf (from Pulp Fiction) type role. Meanwhile, Jason Statham delivers his usual gravelly brand of intimidating badass, which is never a bad thing. James Wan, formerly known for his work on low-budget chillers such as Insidious does well to prove himself capable of handling big budget blockbuster affairs. Unfortunately, the film does lose some of its momentum as it lumbers into its final act composed of a destructive landscape-altering chase around the streets of Los Angeles. At two hours and twenty minutes, it is too self-serving for its own good.
Then there is the matter of Paul Walkers death, which is handled tastefully thanks to a moving finale that pays tribute to both the character and actor. In fact, it's the one moment where these actors deliver a true moment of emotion as it is so clearly raw. No amount of hammy on the nose dialog can match a simple visual moment of silent reflection as each of them realize that their friend (in real life) is gone. It serves as a poignant and touching send off to not only Brian O'Conner but to Paul Walker as well.
Furious 7 doesn't quite live up to the best of this franchise (that being Fast Five), but for what it's worth, James Wan and crew have delivered a fun over the top eighties action movie repackaged for the modern age. Just let it be said that the gas in the tank is running on near empty for this franchise. Perhaps it's time to leave it rest, but who are we kidding? The box office numbers alone will ensure the inevitable Furious 8, 9, and 10.