Fast and Furious 7 -- Or -- James Bond with Fast Cars That Also Skydive
When this franchise started 14 years ago (That's right...fourteen.) it was about muscleheads that stole DVD players, made shitty tuna sandwiches, and caught the interest of the LAPD for theft. They drove fast cars in glamorous street races with scantily clad (often Asian, I seem to remember) chicks. They stole off the highway. It was all kind of quaint, really. Fast forward a decade and a half and six sequels later, add international locales, the governmental support of the highest “secretive” agencies, and insane cars and gadgets us joe schmoes could only dream of, and you’re left with a weird action movie hybrid; The Fast and the Furious Meets James Bond: The Man Who Drove Too Fast (And Also Too Furious). The franchise has been building this way since its fifth (and best) installment, and is finally realizing its full hollywood blockbuster potential. It’s big, it’s grand, it’s fun, and it’s a million different things all rolled into a high speed engine mixed with NOS and cocaine and whatever else producers could throw at it. With a movie this BIG, its difficult to see it as its own entry as opposed to a (possibly necessary) transition into the ever-continuing future of a big studio franchise.
Since the Fifth movie (directed by franchise regular Justin Lin, who took the series into the necessary direction of ridiculous it so desperately needed to remain relevant) they have depended on exotic locations and new international threats, only peppering in the racing silliness that became requisite to the movies afterwards. So the plot should be painfully simple this time. As the tag lines and trailers LOVE to remind us, “Vengaence Comes HOME.” And in this segment, it does so in the form of Jason Statham, a British-Secrets-Op-super-blah-blah-blah-he’s-angry-about-his-brother-blah-blah-dude out to kill Dom and Brian and their family. Sure. Let’s come home.
And then we go to Adu Dhabi to retrieve a worldwide surveillance device used to spy on every living human on earth. What the fuck? What rejected James Bond script did we just stumble onto? Where are we? Why is Kurt Russel here? And why am I so happy to see him?
One of the main complaints of Fast 6 was that “using wolves to catch wolves” was a thin premise for needing Vin Deisel and the Fast Car Gang to get involved in stopping an international terrorist group. Furious 7 hears your complaints and proudly points a middle finger right in your face as it speeds in reverse out of an airplane and skydives into a military operated safe zone in the middle of a war torn enemy territory. For no other reason than “YOU’RE VIN DEISEL!” the whole gang gets information and access to the world’s most sensitive software known to man and given carte blanche to the world’s most powerful Secret Ops Agency. And the director, Kurt Russell (playing white Nick Fury) even make quippy little jokes about how ragtag this gang is! (Why is Kurt Russell even there? And WHY am I SO happy to see him?)
The movie takes two completely separate plot lines, the revenge-Stath-aspect (or RSA as we’ll call it) and the Ridiculously-Stupid-World-Surveillance-Device-Retrieval-Bit (RSWSDRB does not sound sexy, sadly) and strangely combines both of them into every action set piece. Dom and the crew, A, have to get B, the surveillance blah-blah, to get C, the Stath, but C keeps busting into every A and B scene there is. At first it seemed stupid to have to completely different missions, and it almost seemed to stupider to just have both of them conveniently intervene, but it actually did the movie well, kept the action on both fronts coming, and didn’t neglect either ridiculous movie trope in favor for the other. But even still, it’s paper thin. None of us, Vin Diesel hanging around on his tree stilts growling, “Yo Soy Groot” included, give a shit about this new technological super threat. Not in the hands of these people.
The movie ends up somewhere in-between brilliantly overstuffed and grasping to evolve the franchise in its future direction. The movie, at best, is akin to the newer entries of the Mission Impossible series. The characters play off each other’s group dynamics in a cool and collected way (until: cars) to collect information and whoop ass in big, fantastic set pieces that wonderfully defy logic and sound driving laws. At its worst, it becomes a bad Ocean’s Eleven (or Twelve?) rip-off, throwing too many bad guys, too many dumb plot devices, and the desire to play certain things off as comedy without anyone being actually very funny. After four movies together as this particular gang, they have a wonderful repoir together, but quippy comedy and complex plots have never been the movies’ strong point.
But then...Vin Diesel and Paul Walker do drive a four milliion dollar car through not one, not two, but three skyscrapers in fuckin’ Dubai or some shit. And you know what? Ask me if it was awesome.
It was awesome.
So who cares? It was great fun. Vin Deisel growled about family. People drove cars in stupid and fun ways. I saw girls in thongs. It had all the parts of a Fast and Furious movie I have come to expect, and it didn’t even fuck up all the other stuff it crammed down its overstuffed gullet. We only have two more movies before they go up in space, so let’s just keep this good thing going, amirite?
Arbritary Grade: A-
• Yes, this was Paul Walker’s last film, and they needed to use CGI composite shots mixed with his brothers as stand-ins to complete some of his scenes. To just get it out of the way: Yes, the movie was very tasteful with how it handled Walker’s death, and the scenes that were added after his death (some where noticeable or obvious script-wise, some I’m still not sure) were done respectfully and it was a very loving send-off to an actor and character that, for obvious reasons, could no longer go on in the following movies. And yeah, okay, I absolutely cried at the end of the movie, and thinking about it again is making me teary eyed. I need to put on some more Sopranos. Get me tough.
• James Wan directs action well, if not a bit too much rotating camera CGI-y. But you can see a specific desire to keep shots going on for more than 2 seconds when possible. There were moments where fights seemed rushed, but overall it felt like the cameras were carefully placed. Given the fact he had so many big set pieces to get wrapped around he did a fine job, a fine job indeed. However, I can’t help but miss the paintball-sharp sensibilities of Justin Lin.
• Three Awesome Action Moments:
Paul Walker has become the de facto bare knuckle fighter of the gang (solidified with the awesome prison cell scene that in Fast 6 that even preceded The Raid 2), and his brawl in the moving jail truck with Thai star Tony Jaa was particularly fun. Man, could Brian O’Connor kick ass. Enjoy your life with Dom’s sister and your cute kid, Jack.
As much as they make a big fucking deal about it in all the trailers, the car skydiving scene was effectively awesome. Six movies later, escalated to levels higher than anyone could have ever imagined, they found a way to pay homage to their original creator (the skydiving without a parachute scene in Point Break), but still stick up a stiff middle finger as to how ridiculous people think these movies can get. “LET’S HAVE CARS SKYDIVE” is possibly the most coke-fueled sentence Hollywood ever created, but the scene was done with a refreshing air of recognition as to how dumb it was really getting. And was fun.
And finally, let’s face it. Dom drove through THREE SEPARATE SKYSCRAPERS. The trailers, as terrible as they are at revealing an action movie’s big set-pieces, didn’t quite reveal that there was an entire other building they went through.