Furious 7 Review

Posted: May 1, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

furious 7Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

The Fast and the Furious franchise is all kinds of flawed, but if nothing else it’s been fascinating to see this series evolve. The first film, released in 2001, was a humble little movie about drag racing which turned into a surprise hit. From there came two sequels which both suggested the series was heading straight for the direct-to-video bargain bin and plummeting fast. Then, inexplicitly, the series was save by 2009’s Fast & Furious, a substantial hit, and followed by Fast Five, which actually brought some level of legitimacy to the series, at least on the level of schlock action films. Now, The Fast and the Furious is one of the biggest move series around, with each entry proving a huge blockbuster. Personally, I’ve been pretty critical of these movies, but I’ve slowly had a change of heart. I still think they’re problematic, but there’s fun to be had in these movies, including the most recent, and most ridiculous entry, Furious 7.

After defeating international criminal Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) have been able to return safely to the United States and pursue their lives as they see fit. For Brian (Paul Walker), this means settling down with his wife (Jordana Brewster) and young son. However these plans are put on hold when Han (Sung Kang) is killed by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who is seeking vengeance on the crew that crippled his brother. Dom vows to avenge Han’s death, and is approached by covert ops leader Frank Petty (Kurt Russel), who can give Dom in his crew the resources they need to bring down Shaw provided they bring in a hacker captured by mercenary Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). What follows is a globetrotting adventure of action and insane stunt work.

Part of the reason Fast & Furious represented a shift from the series is it was there that the series started to associate itself with more traditional action films that just utilized a lot of cars rather than racing films. Each subsequent film followed this trend, becoming more about the action, which has become far grander with each successive installment. Such escalation has perhaps reached its peak here. Two scenes in particular stand out; a brigade of parachuting cars, and Dom driving a sports car through multiple skyscrapers. Such scenes are clearly ridiculous, but that’s also the point. These are movies built on over-the-top spectacle, and on that level Furious 7 works very well. The aforementioned stunts are really exciting and lots of fun to watch. The film is also full of chases, shootouts, fistfights, and other set-pieces which rarely wear out their welcome. The whole thing ends on an absolutely insane climax featuring multiple vehicles, chases, fights, and shootouts in downtown L.A.

Furious 7 marks the departure of director Justin Lin from the franchise, who’s been directing these films since 2006’s Tokyo Drift. He’s been replaced by James Wan, the man who launched the Saw franchise back in 2004, and is more recently known for films like Insidious and The Conjuring. You don’t really get a sense of Wan’s horror background though, or any stylistic stamp specific to Wan. Instead, the man mostly follows the sensibilities of the series especially. The cinematography, soundtrack, and editing is very much in line with previous entries and series fans should feel right at home. Wan should be acknowledged however for directing the various set-pieces very well. Occasionally, the camera can be a bit too mobile and close-up, but on the whole the action is pretty stellar. The film is also shot with a lot of energy which carries through the over two hour runtime.

Where the film runs into serious trouble is with its script. I realize these movies are based around the action, but the plotting that links everything together is too flawed to be ignored. The biggest problem is actually that the story is far too convoluted for its own good. The previous films and this one’s own premise would suggest Furious 7 be about the battle of wills between Dom’s crew and Deckard Shaw, both motivated by vengeance. That’s kind of true here, but the crew quickly become embroiled with another plot involving finding a hacker, and then finding her magical hacking device. It feels like two plots awkwardly forced together and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make sense within the context of the story. The only reason Dom is helping Frank Petty is to use his resources to find Shaw, but Shaw shows up literally everywhere the crew goes. There’s no reason for Dom associating with this organization or this hacker plot. It’s a shame too because this film brings in lots of good actors like Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, and Djimon Honsou, but the plot is so muddled they don’t really get a chance to shine properly. Statham especially is probably the best villain this series has ever seen, but he doesn’t get enough screen time or big moments to really deliver. I’ve also never been too fond of the series’ sense of humour, and the comedic beats, mostly tied to Tyrese Gibson, really fall flat.

Of course, no review of Furious 7 would really be complete without discussing Paul Walker’s role. Walker of course, died during filming and the filmmakers had to film the rest of his scenes using body doubles and CGI. The film does a good job integrating these tricks into the film naturally. The doubling only becomes noticeable at the end, and that’s mostly due to the content of the scene. On that note, the way the film leaves Brian’s character is very appropriate, respectful, and oddly touching. Granted, I imagine it might play as jarring to future audiences. Someone watching the film thirty years from now unaware of Walker’s death during the making of might be a little shocked, but I do think the moment works all the same.

Despite what I liked and didn’t like about Furious 7, this is mostly par for the course for this series. If you liked the previous entries, particularly the big set-pieces from Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6, than you’ll likely really like this entry too, as it has more over-the-top action than any of them. On the other hand, if you think these films are stupid and trashy, then this won’t change your mind as it isn’t any smarter. As for me, I’m somewhat in the middle. On the one hand, I think the action scenes are really well-executed and the film has a lot of energy, but the script is just a mess and at the end of the day I can only look past that so much.

C+

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