Picking up with the cliffhanger from the last film, Furious 7 unleashes new villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who is a one-man army seeking vengeance for what Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew did to Shaw’s brother. Back in the US, Dom continues to share with an increasingly frustrated Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) remnants of their past while Brian (Paul Walker) fears getting accustomed to regular life now that he is a father driving a mini van. They are quickly pushed back into the fray after Deckard Shaw makes an attempt on their lives. This time around, it is not Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) but covert ops leader Frank Petty (Kurt Russell) who gives Dom and co. the resources to take down Deckard Shaw. But there’s a catch, Dom’s crew must first safe a hacker from terrorists and retrieve a program that can literally find and track anyone on the planet.
I did not like Furious 7. Like a lot of people, I too was excited for this new entry in the franchise especially since the two previous films have been so ridiculously awesome and fun. The world continues to expand in these films and things get more elaborate and action heavy. But coming out of the theatre this time around, there was an underlying discomfort because while I can’t deny the film is at times really fun it is also a gigantic mess, starting with the direction. James Wan took over the director’s chair from Justin Lin, who directed films 3-6, and I remember finding Wan’s hiring interesting since he previously directed Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. He directed Furious 7 like he directed Insidious, meaning that there is no subtly, bombastic music is a must, everything occurs in rapid/frantic cuts and consistency is a foreign construct that might as well not exist.
Furious 7 is full of these extended montages zooming in and out of women’s asses and boobs, cars and buildings, which are not new for the franchise but in this film they are over-emphasized to the point where it feels like your watching Nelly’s music video for “Hot in Herre” on a loop. These montages feel utterly anonymous and their regularity not only renders them redundant, but also forced as if the film can’t help constantly remind you that you’re watching a Fast & Furious film. Except these types of montages have been featured less and less since the fifth film and their resurgence here is a distraction employed to reset the mood and unnecessarily fill time. This approach seeps into the action scenes as well and as a result they become increasingly over the top. Being over the top is not a bad a thing, some of the best moments in these films are the direct result of that utter negligence of physics and reality. However, there is a point where over the top turns into satire and that is what occurs in Furious 7. In previous film, especially since the fifth, there has been some semblance of logic in the car chases and heists, but this time is just madness. The action scenes are more about looking impressive and not at all about being cohesive. And because the goal is greater spectacle from start to finish, the characters will always have to come out of impossible situations and crashes unscathed unless the plot requires the alternative. What this basically does is turn the cast into cartoons, which takes the danger out of everything they do, which effectively destroys all semblance of tension. That is why I found the constant hints that an important character was going to die fucking hilarious.
Speaking of characters, I have to point out that if it wasn’t for the previous films there would be no reason to care about the characters in this film. It is up to the first film in a series to do the heavy lifting and get us involved with the characters, but sequels are suppose to reinforce that investment on the characters instead of gradually making us feel apathetic. Besides introducing cool new bigger action, sequels also have the opportunity to provide depth to the characters, give us more incentive to revisit them. Maybe I’m asking too much, maybe the characters themselves are just simplistic and not very interesting, maybe the important thing is just cars doing cool shit. What do you think would be Vin Diesel’s answer to that? I think, he’d say the characters are important. They are fun characters, but for the audience to really feel invested in them these films have to do more in fleshing them out and stepping away from the characters’ perpetual one-dimensionality. I bring this up because, for me, Furious 7 took several steps backwards and actually made me really apathetic towards all the characters. The film wanted to have it both way: it takes mortality away from the characters and then tries to put it back in the end. It doesn’t work, there’s no consistency and the sheer fast-pace nature of the film doesn’t leave room to breathe. Where are the scenes of the characters just hanging out? Why is the characters’ one-dimensionality reinforced with every film? Don’t we as fan deserve a bit more effort?
Lastly, let’s address Paul Walker (Some Spoilers Follow). His death was a shock for a lot of us and because Furious 7 was not completed at the time, there were talks about how the filmmakers would deal with Paul Walker’s character, Brian, and the changes they would have to implement. From watching the film, I think maybe the original story had an important character dying in the end. You’d be inclined to think of Brian dying since the film actively hints that he will die. However, in the end nobody dies and Brian simply chooses to remain with his family and move away from the car chases. This is a nice conclusion to the character and it is much more comforting to know Brian is alive somewhere. Having said that, I think it was a mistake how the filmmakers handled the ending. In the context of the story in the film, Brian is still very much a part of Dom, Letty and everyone else’s lives. But the film turns that goodbye into a funeral of sorts. On the one hand, I understand the desire to celebrate Paul Walker and send him off with a tribute. On the other hand, making that tribute part of the actual story is strange. There is an evident disparity between how the actors behave and how their characters are suppose to behave so much so that in those last 8 minutes it feels like Furious 7 is breaking the fourth wall. The film turns too self-aware, it tries to be really thoughtful in the end and it feels off with all the ridiculous cartoon action that preceded it.
Furious 7 is neither the worst Fast & Furious film nor the best, it is average on the verge of forgettable like the second one. These films have always been ridiculous but usually that ridiculousness is grounded to a certain degree by the characters and a slight reliance on logic and physics. Furious 7 is dumb, mindless and implausible kind of like Trans4mers. The emphasis this time around is on spectacle and doing crazier and crazier things. Granted, those scenes work in pumping you up and they are really fun to watch. Seeing Vin Diesel jump through building at high speeds is awesome, the fight scene between Michelle Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey is well-choreographed and intense, and the banter between Tyrese and Ludacris is still funny. The film is flawed for sure and having too much expectations will only leave you disappointed. Director James Wan makes things a bit too satirical which instills the proceedings with cynic vibe that does not work. But in the end, Furious 7 is an effective distraction albeit one you might not want to revisit.