Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner, Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz, Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce, Ludacris as Tej Parker, Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey, Djimon Hounsou as Jakande, Tony Jaa as Louie Tran, Kurt Russell as Petty, Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto, Elsa Pataky as Elena, Ronda Rousey as Kara, Lucas Black as Sean Boswell, John Brotherton as Sheppard, Brittney Alger as Jasmine
Directed by James Wan
After the events of Furious 6, Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and their crew are trying to rebuild their lives in Los Angeles, until Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), an ultra-violent mercenary seeking revenge for what the crew did to his younger brother, starts terrorizing them. To find Shaw, they agree to work with a government operative (Kurt Russell) who is looking for a surveillance system known as the “God’s Eye” and its programmer, Ramsey, who has been kidnapped.
After six movies we can generally figure out what to expect from a “Fast and Furious” movie, so it’s nice that new director James Wan offers us a few surprises, although it takes a little time before we get to them. First, the movie has to bring us up to speed after Sung Kang’s Han was murdered by Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw in the end credits of the previous movie.
As we learn, that scene took place years after the events in the body of the movie since Paul Walker’s Brian and his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) now have a three-year-old son, but their extended family, including Mia’s street racing brother Dominic Torreto (Vin Diesel), are still unable to have a happy ending as they’re being threatened by the deadly relative of their previous adversary.
The first 20 minutes of Furious 7 are dedicated to setting up this conflict and it tends to drag until Brian and Torreto are reunited with the rest of the crew and it picks up dramatically, as we’re reminded what the indelible comic pairing of Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Ludacris’ Tej brings to the mix.
By now, they’ve created a fairly solid model for these movies that falls somewhere between “Mission: Impossible” and a video game full of side missions. In this case, the latter is provided by Kurt Russell as a government agent who agrees to help Dom and Brian take down Shaw in exchange for them helping get his hands on a computer programmer named Ramsey and her technological breakthrough which can help them find Shaw. It’s not like they have to look far since Shaw continually turns up at the worst possible moments to make it even harder for the team to find the technology… that will help them find Shaw. What????
That mission certainly does start seeming like an unnecessary tangent after a while, but it does lead to a number of crazy action sequences on par with anything from the earlier movies. The first extended setpiece on the side of a mountain is quite fantastic, from the team freefalling from a plane to the race against a series of armed guards on a bus that’s equally armed.
That sequence is also when more enemies (played by Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou) show up. They don’t have much to do at first, but thankfully they’re brought back for the even crazier last act setpiece. Let’s face it, if you’re going to put Jaa in your movie, you’re going to want to let him do what he does best, which is high-flying martial arts, and he has two great fights with Walker.
The team’s equally redundant sidetrip to Abu Dabi to get the tracking program, which (of course) has been inserted into a $3.5 million racecar, also seems like it could have been avoided, but the results are so much fun, from Roman’s badly-improvised party crashing to Diesel’s Dom continuing the patter of finding a way to destroy every single cool car he comes in contact with.
It’s a shame when Dwayne Johnson is taken out of commission early on after a violent confrontation with Shaw, but that just makes his return even more welcome in the last act. There’s no denying that Johnson has really brought more to the franchise with the introduction of his character Hobbs in Fast 5 than any other addition, and it wouldn’t even remotely surprise me if the character one day gets his own spin-off movie.
With so much going on, some might wrongly assume that Wan would be out of his depth, mainly since he’s best known for his lower-budget horror franchises. The budget for Furious 7 is larger than all his previous movies combined, but he doesn’t miss a beat with a seventh movie that stands up to Justin Lin’s previous four. Even so, Wan can only work with what he’s given and the early dramatic moments are only as good as his actors, who have never been particularly great when not behind the wheel or throwing a punch.
You can’t discuss the “Fast and Furious” movies and ignore the underlying current of sexism where women are often treated like underdressed meat. That tradition continues, not helped by the introduction of Nathalie Emmanuel’s brilliant programmer who creates this high-tech tracking device, yet is mainly kept around as another woman the guys fight over or to be saved. Fortunately, one of her saviors is Michelle Rodriguez, who is constantly front and center in the race scenes as well as being thrown into another visceral girlfight against an MMA fighter, this time being Ronda Rousey.
You also can’t write about Furious 7 without mentioning the impact of Paul Walker’s death in 2013 and the cloud that hangs over his scenes because of it. Brian is still extremely present in the movie and the constant thoughts of what sort of technical things have been done to piece together his appearance is never much of a distraction. The last few minutes are particularly emotional as it gives an appropriate send-off to Walker, and honestly, if they ended the series right there, it would be at a high point.
The Bottom Line:
Despite a ridiculous (sometimes hole-filled) plot and some dopey soap opera moments, Furious 7 knows its audience and delivers exactly what they want, including an exciting last act with a huge pay-off.
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