The Fast and Furious franchise has had quite the ride, to say the least. From Point Break with cars to ridiculously outlandish action film is not an easy transition to make. Yet with Fast 5, this series managed to pull it off, and with flying colors (and safes). And now, with Furious 7, the franchise goes to more emotional places to pay tribute to a member of Dom's constantly expanding family.
Furious 7 is a film that had a huge challenge on its hands: make a solid action movie, and a tribute to Paul Walker, a main star who tragically passed away while the film was being made. Scripts had to be rewritten, characters removed and added, and some of Paul Walker's scenes had to be done using his brothers and CGI. Needless to say, a lot was dumped on the lap of James Wan, who was directing an F&F movie for the first time.So, does Furious 7 manage to make a coherent story and fill the void left by Paul Walker's passing?
The short answer is no. However, Furious 7 comes remarkably close. Paul Walker's Brian certainly doesn't quite feel like the main character, but he is at the very least a part of the crew. The real problem here comes from underusing great talent. The Rock is not only underutilized, he seems to be bizarrely written out of the film on purpose. Lucas Black had the potential to replace Paul Walker, but if you have to pee at the wrong time, you'll miss his appearance entirely. Jason Statham is absolutely electric as the villain Deckard Shaw on-screen, yet he too feels a bit wasted. Instead of being Statham vs. the crew in a story of one man avenging his family by going after another's, what's here is a treasure hunt film with Statham's hunt being reduced to a near subplot.However, even the treasure hunt main plot can get overly convoluted sometimes. The constant moving from place to place feels strange and the plot seems like it could be a whole trilogy. The film does, however,manage to pack in a lot of raw emotion if you're a fan of the series, even if the writers fail to capitalize on the moments. The ending however, is definitely the closest thing to a perfect ending I've seen in a long time.
But what the film lacks in story, it makes up for in action, one liners, emotion, and Kurt Russell. The film's car action sequences are very well shot, with a sense of thrill and wonder. The fist fights are a slight problem though. The choreography seems nice enough, and the actors all seem to be doing their own stunts. I'm not why, then, director James Wan and the cinematographers felt the need to add in the absurd amount of shaky cam in the hand to hand combat scenes. The cinematographers also seem to have an odd fascination or fetish with a shot that follows a person being flipped in midair, making it seem like the world is turning around them. This single shot occurs at least twice in the movie, for whatever reason. Still,any sort of action scene not involving hand to hand combat (luckily most of the action) is well shot and filmed.
Lastly, this aspect of the Fast franchise has been highlighted to great effect in the last few movies, and in a way is done more so in this one:the crew. The Fast Family is very important to making the newer Fast and Furious films work. Luckily, everyone brings their A game to the group (even if Tyrese's dialogue gets slightly grating sometimes). The lack of Han is definitely noticeable and he is greatly missed, but Gal Gadot's Gisele left so little impact I barely realized she wasn't in this movie.
Overall, it's tough to blame Furious 7 for its problems, due to the rewrites that were necessary. Sure, it sometimes feels cobbled together, but it IS cobbled together as a fitting tribute to not only Paul Walker, but the Fast and Furious franchise. This probably won't be the last Fast and Furious film, and I may go buy the rest as well, but to me, this will be the last film placed with the rest of the films in the franchise on top of my blu ray shelf instead of in it. All in all, let's just be glad Paul Walker didn't go out with Brick Mansions.