Review: Fast & Furious 7
Bad arse British ex-special ops guy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge for the fate of his brother in the previous film. He’s systematically hunting the crew down, starting with Han (Sung Kang, in a scene that appeared at the end of the previous film). He even manages to hospitalise Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and nearly blows up Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster). Meanwhile, a shadowy government figure who calls himself Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) requests a meeting with the entire remaining crew, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), techie Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), and Dom’s brooding amnesiac squeeze Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Mr. Nobody tells Dom that he can help them get Shaw, but first he needs them to retrieve the ‘God’s Eye’ technology (a super-dooper surveillance system) and rescue a computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel, my vote for most beautiful woman on “Game of Thrones”) from terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). Lucas Black and Elsa Pataky briefly reprise roles from previous entries, Thai arse-kicker Tony Jaa (as quick and acrobatic as ever) plays Jakande’s chief henchman, and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey has a brief role as a bodyguard, in which she throws down with Rodriguez’s Letty in an Abu Dhabi skyscraper.
I figured when the previous “Fast & Furious 6” turned out to be slightly better than “Fast & Furious” (i.e., the fourth one) which wasn’t terrible itself, that we might eventually get one “Fast & Furious” movie genuinely worth watching. And indeed it is. Such a shame, then, that it’s the last one Paul Walker will ever appear in, having died towards the end of filming here (ironically in a car accident). Here it is, folks, the one genuinely good movie in the series. This 2015 film from Aussie director James Wan (The not-bad “Saw”, the underrated “Insidious”) and screenwriter Chris Morgan (“Cellular”, “Wanted”, and the two previous “Fast” films) probably has too many moving parts, leaving some talent with very little to do. However, I can’t deny this one kept me entertained from start to finish, and given all of those moving parts, it could’ve been even worse. That it still manages to be a solid piece of entertainment is kind of amazing, really. Speaking of amazing, how amazing is it that the “Saw” guy has directed the best film in this franchise, and the “Boyz ‘N the Hood” guy (John Singleton) delivered the absolute worst? (In fairness I haven’t seen “Tokyo Drift”, but it’d have to be truly abysmal to get below the empty-headed “2 Fast 2 Furious”).
We start off with a ridiculous opener starring a vengeful Jason Statham, letting you know from the outset that this is going to be as dumb as ever. That’s not a complaint, just an observation. A later throwdown between Statham and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is good, impactful fun (The latter even performs a ‘Rock Bottom’ in the film. Yep). We also get an idiotic, irresponsible, but undeniably awesome moment where Statham and Diesel butt car bonnets. At high speed. And they survive unharmed. However, the ridiculous zenith is probably the plane/car/skydiving stunt, perhaps the most absurd thing you’ll see in any film of the year. And that’s not a criticism, it’s fun. Meanwhile, Brian Tyler (“Frailty”, “The Expendables”, “The Expendables 3”) gives us a thunderous, exciting music score. I also thought it was a cute touch to use the end scene of the last film after about 15 minutes here, instead of starting with it. That was interesting and unique, I guess. In what is kind of his “Game of Death”, the late Paul Walker gets an undeniably brilliant entrance in this one, and they try to send him off in the most appropriate way possible at the end, too. He’s actually in a lot more of the film than you might expect, I was certainly surprised. It’s hardly “The Crow” (though similar methods were used to cover for Walker’s absence in scenes he was needed in), but the film does have a similar melancholic, death-obsessed vibe that isn’t just confined to Walker’s presence. Series fans will probably be moved, I’m no fan (of the series nor Walker’s acting ability- apparently he was a great guy, though) but I can appreciate it to an extent.
Vin Diesel continues to show that he has something, even if that something isn’t necessarily the ability to choose good scripts. However, every time he’s on screen with The Rock, The Great One dwarfs Diesel, so the latter can be thankful that The Rock gets sidelined for the majority of the film and Diesel gets to essentially be the lead here (Rock does get one brilliantly stupid macho moment where he literally flexes his way out of an arm cast). It’s a bit of a shame for him, though, that he’s also having to contend with the largest and most high-profile cast of the series here. Some among the cast fare better than others (Lucas Black, Elsa Pataky, and Ronda Rousey barely even get walk-ons, the former of which is more disappointing than the latter two). Aussie-born (c)rapper Iggy Azalea, however should never be encouraged to pursue an acting career. Yikes, thankfully she’s only got a walk-on here. Much better (and more prominent) is Michelle Rodriguez, whose character arc is easily the most interesting in the franchise. Rodriguez is a limited actress, but not as much so as many suggest, she’s really good here and works well with Diesel as always. Depending on what source you read, Kurt Russell (probably one of my favourite actors) either turned down a gig in the “The Expendables 3” because he didn’t want to do ensemble pieces anymore, or he didn’t want to go retro, depending on which source you go with. Given he’s here in an ensemble piece, I assume it’s the latter. Or maybe he really likes cars. At any rate, he waltzes in here and owns the film straight away. He’s clearly having fun, though I personally would’ve preferred him to turn up in “The Expendables 3” (I’m probably the only one who liked that movie, I know). Although he co-starred in the worst film in this series, Tyrese Gibson ends up trumping Russell (and everyone else here) by walking off with the whole film in the end. Russell and The Rock aren’t around enough (I’d prefer more of them and less Ludacris and Jordana Brewster to be honest), ultimately to earn top honours, so Gibson takes it from them. Playing the most irritable man on the planet, he’s a constant hoot.
Like Lucas Black, Djimon Hounsou probably doesn’t have enough room here for his character, but he certainly manages to look like the coolest dude in the room. I think he probably should’ve been held off for the next one (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one, even without Walker). Speaking of cool, Tony Jaa doesn’t get much screen time here (I get the feeling he might’ve been slated for one more fight with Walker), but he probably gets a better showing here than in other American-made films. He’s a terrific fighter as anyone who has seen the first “Ong-Bak” can attest, and he’s damn impressive here in his few fleeting moments on screen. Hell, even the Ronda Rousey-Michelle Rodriguez fight is fun in a ‘watching two tough chicks beat the crap out of each other in strangely bloodless fashion’ kinda way. Action is absolutely the film’s strongest suit, so long as your tolerance for ricockulousness is pretty high. Jason Statham isn’t having his finest hour here, but he’s a pretty perfect adversary for Diesel. He’s a perfect blunt force, typical Statham really.
Series fans will like this more than I did, but I’ve gotta say this is quite a bit of dumb action fun from start to finish. Sure, the camerawork might not have been my cup of tea. Sure, the film is clearly overpopulated and really shouldn’t work. It does work, though, and it could’ve been so, so much worse. The action is well-staged, some of the actors fare pretty well (particularly Gibson, Russell, Diesel, and Rodriguez), and overall I had a good time with this one. Yeah, I’m a bit surprised, too. If this is to be the swan song for not just Walker (who was clearly loved by many) but also the series, they’ve left on a high note so far as entertainment value goes. Just check your brain in a different stratosphere.