‘Furious 7’ Delivers Frenzied Action and a Fitting Tribute

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There came a point in the Fast & Furious movies where Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto looked over his shoulder, grinned out of the side of his mouth, and floored his American muscle car to its maximum speed, leaving any sense of realism left in this franchise on the pavement along with tiny fragments of rubber. From that point forward with Fast Five and Furious 6, Fast & Furious movies moved into the upper echelon of modern action cinema. Nothing was bigger. Nothing was crazier. Nothing was better. Furious 7 continues this new tradition of over-the-top insanity, presenting a two-hour thrill ride of magnificent set pieces, vehicular carnage, and gut-busting humor. But with the tragic death of Paul Walker still lingering over every frame of this film, Furious 7 proves that real life events can transcend the most unrealistic movie. Thankfully, Furious 7 is just as adept at cinematic thrashing as it is at touching tribute.

Picking right up after the events of Furious 6, the film opens with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) looking over the crippled body of his brother. As his unconscious brother breathes with the aid of life support, Shaw promises is vengeance on the group that did this to him. Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Brian O’Conner (Walker) is a fast and furious father, complete with the minivan, dropping his son off at school and generally being a good husband to Mia (Jordana Brewster). As for the other couple, Dominic (Diesel) is trying to help Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) get over the obstacles of her lost memory from the previous film. Before either couple could begin to hash out their concerns, Shaw sends a bomb to their home. And Shaw isn’t done setting the stage for the ramped-up action to come. He then breaks into the L.A. offices of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and puts the near-invincible agent of justice in the hospital. Shortly after, Dominic and Deckard are face-to-face when team of black-ops agents intervene. Their leader, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), offers them a deal – rescue a captured computer hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and her surveillance software and they’ll have all the resources they need to stop Shaw. Of course, the team, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), accept the deal.

From there, Furious 7 just moves forward in frenzy of fast & fury, taking its characters into a massive chase on a mountain, crashing through buildings in Abu Dhabi, and the climax on the streets of Downton Los Angeles. Without divulging too much information, these sequences are all that can and should be expected from a Fast & Furious film. While all these action sequences are very impressive, director James Wan isn’t as assured in the action genre as his predecessor Justin Lin. Wan’s action filmmaking is much better in the larger scale. The film’s big moments pay off. When it comes to hand-to-hand combat scenes, though, Wan isn’t as on solid footing as the camera moves to fast to maintain much visual clarity, but it’s still streets ahead of most modern action cinema.

A film can’t coast by on massive, impressive set pieces alone. Ever since Dwayne Johnson revitalized this franchise in Fast Five, its casting in each installment gets better and better. Statham is a perfect Bond-esque villain with unlimited resources and lethalness. It’s so pleasing to see Kurt Russell in another role where he’s allowed to just let his charisma run wild. After the film you’ll probably be hankering for Belgian ale. Then the film is sprinkled with nice supporting roles by MMA superstar Ronda Rousey and martial arts film badass Tony Jaa. None of the actors that shine in this film, and they’re all pretty much having a ball, could do so without the writing of Chris Morgan, who has written every Fast & Furious movie since Tokyo Drift. If you’re allergic to cheesy one-liners, however, I suggest that you might skip this one. But if you’re a human with a sense of humor, you’ll love every single absurd one-liner in Furious 7.

As much as Furious 7 is just a great example of fun frenzied escapism, the true life event of Paul Walker’s death casts a shadow over the film. A couple of scenes are obviously shot around Walker’s absence, with every other actor occupying a single frame while Walker’s voice is faint in the background. I believe that the character of Mia was sidelined because her character likely called for more scenes with Walker. The moments when computer technology is used to present Walker again aren’t hard to miss, but they’re few and far between and are only used in service of a fitting tribute. That being said, none of this is a burden that film carries, nor does it ever venture into the realm of sleazy exploitation. At the film’s conclusion, the tribute to Paul Walker was as classy and well-handled as imaginable under such circumstances.

Though external reality finds its way into a film that rejects realism on practically every angle, Furious 7 finds a way to honor the memory of one its family members while still keeping the series among the best action franchise ever – not to mention the strangest in terms of evolution. Primarily a director of horror films, James Wan does an admirable job not just moving into the action genre but taking on the biggest action franchise at present. Though he’s not as good at clear visual action or compelling parallel action as Justin Lin, that’s more a testament to Lin than an indictment of Wan. Furious 7, like the best of the Fast & Furious films, has so much going on at such a fast pace that you can’t help but be entertained. Once the crazed chase on the mountain started, I stopped taking notes and that wide smile on my face wouldn’t go away ’til the ending. Just don’t feel compelled to stay until the end of the credits. Furious 7 doesn’t have a post-credits scene like the previous films, unless you want a message from the Abu Dhabi tourism board. Other than that, get strapped in. Put your helmet on. Because this is one hell of a fun ride.

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