The one thing coming out of Furious 7 is that the film also double as Paul Walker’s grand finale as a film actor. To handle an actor’s final film as a writer can be difficult because we don’t want to make his accomplishments out to be more than what they were … but we also don’t want to be “that guy” who seems unnecessarily mean spirited about someone no longer alive. Thus for many dead actors we tend to over inflate their final film and Paul Walker’s is no different.
Furious 7 has that ominous cloud of Walker’s untimely death beforehand clouding many people’s judgment. While his death necessitated some changes, including most likely the film’s final moments, the one thing about this film is that it isn’t all that good.
It takes what should be a simple premise and profoundly over complicates it. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is the big bad brother of the previous villain (Luke Evans). His little brother is now in a coma and now he’s coming for revenge against Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew of merry car racers turned black ops agents. Shaw knows who they are, after hospitalizing badass federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), as well. He’s just killed Han (Sung Kang) and now the British secret ops badass is coming to LA. He leaves an explosive present for the gang, destroying Dom’s house, and now he’s on the hunt for them.
And if this was the film’s premise, of the team being hunted down in the streets against this badass, it would’ve been interesting. Statham vs. Diesel, with the streets of LA as a backdrop, is the sort of action film the franchise always has been. Unfortunately the film decides to complicate things further by adding in a computer hacker who looks good in a bikini (Nathalie Emmanuel), government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and a computer program that makes current NSA surveillance look like child’s play. Throw in some globetrotting, as if this was a Bond film, and Furious 7 is so overly complicated that even the screenplay sort of gives up midway through.
And it’s a shame because this might be the most interesting Statham performance in some time. He’s been playing the same sort of “right guy, wrong place” character for so long that him playing a deliciously evil bad guy is refreshing. Statham is having the time of his life in the role and for someone who’s hyped in the trailer as much as he is Statham has very minimal screen time. The bulk of it is Dom’s crew (Paul Walker, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez) chasing after a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) on behalf of the CIA and Nobody. Shaw pops up sporadically, as if to remind us he’s still in the film, but he’s not a factor until the film’s final moments in LA.
Statham’s storyline, of the hidden hammer behind his little brother, is such an interesting one that gets short changed in such profound ways that it’s disappointing. This should be a film about Deckard Shaw tearing up Los Angeles against Dom’s crew, who just buried one of their own and could be looking at several more funerals. It’s such a waste of Statham, who immediately becomes interesting by nearly taking down Dwayne Johnson early on in one of the film’s better fight sequences.
This is a film that could’ve taken a clue from an earlier sequel, Fast Five, and had the crew coming together to take down a common enemy. With LA as a backdrop there’s no need to go international for scenes; it feels unnecessary to have a spectacular sequence in Dubai with all of the complications in the film’s plot. With the franchise having gone international in the past because of the fugitive status of its cast, the US was made out to be home. Returning home at the end of Fast & Furious 6 was a big to do that setting the seventh film as a return to a domestic action film would’ve been fitting.
It would’ve been the better option because coming home to the US was such a huge goal that setting most of this film internationally makes it feel like a Die Hard sequel. It’s international for the sake of, not because it adds anything into the film. It’s unnecessarily complicated for a franchise that has long thrived on fairly simple stories. What made the films so refreshing in the early sequels was that they were street racers having to improvise to stay one step ahead of the law and other criminals. If the last film was a move from outlaws to legitimate heroes, this is a move into trying to turn this film franchise into a virtual comic book film.
Now they’re basically a black ops team, an A-Team of ex-cons, and it takes away some of the freshness the franchise had at one time.
The film’s other problem is that with all the new cast members that have been added are significantly better in the acting department than the originals that it’s almost embarrassing. Kurt Russell and Statham are so much better than nearly anyone else, excluding Johnson, that you almost feel bad for them in this film. Both are in full scenery chewing mode, of course, and as such the many weaknesses of Diesel (for example) on screen are readily apparent when he’s not surrounded by franchise stalwarts like Walker, Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. The difference in talent is so profound and pronounced that it feels like they had scenes with stand-ins, reading lines to get the proper camera angles, and just said “this is good enough, we don’t need the real actors.”
Furious 7 is positioned as either a send off for Paul Walker or the final film in a box office powerhouse that developed from a film not expected to do much originally entitled Redline. Either way it’s another fairly terrible sequel in a franchise littered with them.
Director: James Wan Writer: Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.