If back in 2001 someone told me there would be six sequels and counting to movie about an undercover cop and the world of street racing I’d have told them they’d been inhaling too much exhaust fumes, but low and behold the Fast and the Furious franchise is still going strong.
When Fast Five hit theatres in 2011 the series was clearly moving in the direction of the Ocean’s 11 movies with a tight crew pulling off incredible heists only with more amped up action, but with Furious 6 and now Furious 7 they are more of a cross between a G.I. Joe movie and Marvel’s Avengers. The main characters in this film exist in a world where the laws of physics do not apply and the villains are about as clearly defined as your average comic book nemesis.
In this outing Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out for revenge following his brother’s defeat and hospitalizing in the last film. Shaw manages to sneak into the US Diplomatic Agency to steal the files containing the names of the team members that are responsible. To escape with the information he must engage in a knock down drag out fight with Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a that fight that lands Hobbs in the hospital and out of the action for the bulk of the movie.
So the main thrust of this movie is the threat of Shaw tracking down and killing Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and the gang, but sadly the writers didn’t think that was enough so they throw in a high tech MacGuffin called The God’s Eye. This “plot” thread is introduced by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) who runs a super-secret government task force that wants Toretto’s help in recovering this device which allows you to hack into every camera in the world from traffic cameras to your average Joe’s cellphone. Think of it as an amped up version of the device Batman created in The Dark Knight only in this movie they don’t think of the moral implications they just want to retrieve it from a group of mercenaries lead by Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) and use it to find Shaw.
What follows is one insane heist/action sequence after another that constantly strains the viewer’s credulity at every turn. Need to stop a heavily armed convoy on a mountain road, well why not para-drop the team with their cars out of a military cargo plane? Certainly don’t bother to explain why that is the best option, just keep ramp up the action and the audience will hopefully not question how ludicrous it all is. The movie even lifts action set-pieces from other films; we get a bus hanging off a cliff ala the original Italian Job and a super-car jumping from one high-rise to another that is right out of the Tommy Lee Jones film Black Moon Rising. Sure the filmmakers may claim these are “homages” to those earlier action flicks but as I’m betting most of their target audience have never seen or even heard of those films I call bullshit.
In a film series that has had one character die then come back with amnesia and found working with the enemy you certainly can’t be expecting completely sensical storylines, but in this film they kind of cross the line. The amount of times that one of the main cast employs the “hero death exemption” card is staggering; explosions that send one on a four story fall, hail of mini-gun bullets that tear apart everything but people, driving off multiple cliffs with nary a bruise, dodging drone missiles in downtown Los Angeles, not to mention surviving a fight with Tony Jaa which is just pure fantasy.
Now don’t get me wrong this is a very fun film but it defines the term “check brain at door” as even a moment’s thought given to the threadbare plot elements will set it all unraveling. Characters say and do things simply to keep the momentum of the film going forward, it’s like this film is a shark and if it stops moving it will die. This entry is the longest in the series at 137 minutes and I’m betting there is about 10 minutes of story and the rest of it is over the top action beats.
Paul Walker tragically died during the production and I give the filmmakers major kudos for doing a fantastic job honoring his legacy as with the use of his two brothers and computer wizardry I never once doubted I was watching Paul Walker, basically everything about how they handled this was a pure top shelf class act and I’ll admit to welling up a little during the tribute montage at the end.
In conclusion this is an extremely silly film but also quite entertaining, director James Wan could have maybe toned down the spinning camera a bit, but overall he did a solid job for his first big action film gig, and maybe next time they can find a writer who can settle on one villain, a single plot, and hopefully have a defter hand with the comedy and then Roman (Tyrese Gibson) can be told to “Shut the hell up.”