It had been nearly 10 years since I’d sat down in a cinema to watch a Fast and Furious film. Back then it seemed that the franchise was kind of loosing its way, with a new protagonist and different setting, almost everything from the first two films had been thrown out of the window.
Of course my ten-year-old brain didn’t realize any of this, but it was odd not to see a familiar face, right until the very end (sorry spoil alert!) No one would of thought back then that ten years later we would be seeing a seventh installment and especially since the recent tragedy the franchise has faced.
Just a few weeks ago I watched the fourth, fifth and sixth installments and was pleasantly surprised to see that they have improved with each film. Which is an extraordinary feet considering the genre of the films and the original routes the films were grounded in. Which brings me on to my next point. Then films have grown as time has passed, not only in scale, but ambition. The set pieces are more impressive (if ridiculous) each time. Not only that, it is clear the franchise has started to steer away from the original street racing routes, to be more action oriented and from my point of view, especially the last couple of films, they have done it extremely well.
Now, the film itself. Now, the extremely well documented tragic death of Paul Walker undoubtedly had people questioning about the future of this film (including me). Production was put on hold for the best part of a year, with cast having to deal with the loss of a great friend and the producers and writers having to rethink a majority of the film, to be most importantly respectful to one of its leading cast members, but also to turn out an enjoyable cinematic experience.
With the use of scenes already shot, CGI, past footage and stunt doubles (his brothers) they were able to complete the film with Paul’s character Brian, still largely in the film. Now I will say, it was slightly off putting at the time hearing dialogue not sound quite right, camera angles hiding his face, quick edits during his fights scenes and the CGI looking slight iffy in some places. And does this hurt the film in any major way? Well sadly I have to report it does. The film at certain points does feel a little disjointed, epically in the third act. But I cant put that down as a major negative as they did the absolute best with what they had to work with and its not a huge issue.
All the usual starts have returned for this outing, with some old faces springing up for a brief moment (all I’ll say is there’s a quick trip to Tokyo!) One interesting addition to the cast is Kurt Russell’s character “Mr. Nobody” whilst the title of his character doesn’t given much away, it was great to see an established actor join this franchise so late in the game, with it looking like he will returning for the inevitable future installments, it certainly keep me interested in what is next to come from this franchise.
One gripe I can’t ignore is the minimal screen time for one of my favorite characters in this franchise. Dwayne Johnson’s character Hobbs, whilst only being a recent addition the saga, arriving in the fifth installment, I feel he brings a refreshing performance to the film and with the direction the films have been going in, it has only benefitted his character. Sadly though, he only really shows up for around 10 minutes and the beginning and end of the film, with those scenes being some of the most enjoyable.
The film’s main villain played by Jason Statham, is Deckard Shaw who’s out for revenge after his brother, Owen Shaw is left lying comatose in a hospital bed after the climatic events of the previous film. His performance is acceptable, but nothing groundbreaking, but it makes a nice change from being the generic Drug/Mafia Kingpin.
As I said, the last couple of films demonstrate the evolution of this franchise, and this one no exception. With several large set pieces, the film doesn’t take itself to seriously and to me, I liked that. I think everyone is aware by now that these films aren’t going for anything groundbreaking, or looking to push the boundaries of cinema. They’re there for you sit down, turn your brain off and have a good time. The $250 million budget is all up there on screen for you to enjoy and I have to say, I did.
Now I have to mention the ending, oh wow the ending. The Fast and Furious films have not tried to be emotional over the years, but this is different. With the obvious loss in mind, it was clear that a tribute of Paul’s service to the franchise was going to be made and boy did they deliver. Watching the last 10 minutes it was clear how thoughtful they had been in handling this film, with the last few scenes being raw with emotion. Let’s just say, when “For Paul” came up on the screen, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Overall I have to congratulate everyone involved for creating an enjoyable popcorn experience with all the struggles they faced, yes in some parts it shows. But sometimes these things are out of your control and thankfully the film, as a whole isn’t significantly affected.
I look forward to where the franchise goes from here and if they can make it to the supposed final tenth film, then that will be a huge cinematic achievement.