Furious 7 Is Still A Human Cartoon, Albeit A Bittersweet One: A Review


One last ride that serves an elegiac tribute

The Fast and the Furious movies (as part of the Fast-and-Furiverse) have a few rules that must be obeyed with each and every sequel. No obstacle is too big. If it can be jumped, it will be jumped. The laws of physics and gravity are not absolute, merely suggestive. You can drink any beer you want as long as it’s a Corona. Ride or die. Family first.

That last one is particularly strong.

I’m reminded of how the first chapter ended. Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), the undercover cop who infiltrates a group of East L.A. street racers, led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), allows Dom to flee and ride into the sunset. The ending was conclusive, satisfying, and expressed a mutual respect these characters had for one another as their personal allegiances and lives intertwined.

Since then this cinematic universe has evolved from being just about street racing to become a human cartoon. And yet it follows a normal progression. For the sequel (2 Fast 2 Furious), which loses Vin Diesel and replaces him with wisecracking motormouth Tyrese Gibson (as Brian’s old friend Roman Pearce), he calls out the stunt they are about to do—where their car will come crashing into a speeding yacht—as “some Dukes of Hazzard shit.” Looking back, the stunt is small potatoes considering the series would have Brian and Dom hook up a bank vault to a pair of Dodge Chargers and pull it through the streets of Rio De Janeiro while being chased by every police car in Brazil.

Now the series has entered a new dimension where the harebrained schemes continue to be highly preposterous and where most of the car-nage depicted is pursuant to revenge.

But the film fantasy became all too real when Paul Walker died in a high-speed car accident on November 30, 2013, as he was coming home from a charity function. Considering the cavalier attitude the Fast & Furious movies have had when it comes to cheating death at every sharp turn, the tragedy of Walker’s death at 40 put a halt to the Furious 7 production.

With only half of Walker’s scenes finished at the time of his tragic death, director James Wan, screenwriter Chris Morgan, and co-producer Diesel found a solution thanks to the Walker family (brothers Caleb and Cody) and digital grafting from Weta Digital. It’s bittersweet seeing Paul Walker on screen again more than a year after his death but finishing the film in his honor leads to an emotionally taxing conclusion.

James Wan has admitted that the Furious 7 (or Furious Seven) title is a reference to the Akira Kurosawa epic The Seven Samurai. Besides, Dom, Brian and Roman, this also includes Brian’s wife and Dom’ sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom’s love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who is still suffering with a telenovela case of amnesia, Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), the skillful safecracker and computer whiz, and federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who has been instrumental in upping the testosterone of this action franchise. While there may be seven, not all are part of the team this go-around thanks to a new villain.

Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is avenging the incapacitation of his little brother Owen (Luke Evans), who was the villain in the previous series entry. His presence alone should be enough to engage fans, but James Wan and Chris Morgan have more surprises in store for Dom’s crew.

To get Deckard they must first do a snatch and grab job for CIA shadow Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). Their mission is to infiltrate a speeding convoy that is traveling through the Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan and rescue IT programmer Ramsey (Games of Thrones‘ Nathalie Emmanuel). She has created God’s Eye, a computer application with unlimited potential in locating specific individuals through electronic devices.

Her rescue, in what is arguably the best action set piece in the movie, has them globetrotting next to Abu Dahbi to steal the flash drive containing the program. A flash drive that is inconveniently hidden in a W Motors LykN Hypersport, a $3 million sportscar kept on the 50th floor of an Ethihad Tower skyscraper. When Brian remarks to Dom that “cars don’t fly” before they burn rubber out of the high-rise it can only mean another death-defying stunt is about to happen.

At both locations they are pursued by Deckard. Now logic would dictate that why even need the God’s Eye program and leave Los Angeles if Jason Statham will come to you directly. Perhaps Chris Morgan wanted to have Dom and his untrained crew in a Mission: Impossible-inspired adventure with shadow and ex-special forces figures, a MacGuffin, and terrorists. When the action follows them home to L.A. property damage skyrockets into the millions.

Having moved beyond 10-second cars and blown engines to make room for brawls and closed-fist catfights, we have tough guys Statham and Johnson mixing it up (in what is probably the fourth best sequence at best!), Michelle Rodriguez tangling with MMA maven Ronda Rousey, and Paul Walker trying to block Tony Jaa’s fast kicks.

For all the complaints that have been levied against The Fast and the Furious franchise in terms of character and plot and lack thereof, Furious 7 does an admirable job with completing Brian’s arc. He may not be as tough as Hobbs or as Corona-loving as Dom, but he has changed the most the series. Brian is torn between the high-adrenaline rush when he’s with his friends and his responsibilities as a father and husband. (“He misses the bullets,” Mia tells Dom.) Here we have a character that goes from officer of the law to outlaw to family man. After the news of Paul Walker’s death there was speculation on what would become of his character would he be killed off or allowed to ride into the sunset? Without spoilers, fans will be pleased with the film’s final shot before fading to black.

Twisted metal, broken limbs and sequences that would make Wile E. Coyote grin expressively, Furious 7 is an inventive action spectacle. The movie may not hit the heights as Fast Five in terms of execution and coming together for a common purpose, but its ending, much like The Fast and the Furious, is conclusive and emotionally satisfying, again showing a mutual respect between Brian and Dom, or to be truthful, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

Director: James Wan
Writer(s): 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

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