Furious 7 (2015) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language
Running Time: 137 min.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Kurt Russell, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou
Small role: Lucas Black, Luke Evans, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Iggy Azalea
Director: James Wan
Screenplay: Chris Morgan

Review published April 5, 2015

The gang is back for, the poster says, "one last ride."  If this is the last film for the main core players of the franchise (don't bet on it; promotional interviews already are talking about what's planned for the next one), they certainly are going out with a bang, most literally, in what one could argue, at least from an action extravaganza standpoint, is the second best film of the series.  Given I've only liked one previous film in the franchise (Fast Five), I suppose that's not saying much coming from me.  But the absurd tone is set early enough that it's easy to get into the proper mind-frame for inane-but-crazy action, and there's so much ingenuity in the set pieces, even if it's missing from the dialogue and plot, that it forces you into submission through sheer force of will.  While I won't claim this is a good movie, it does deliver the goods as a quintessential popcorn flick for meatheads, enough to recommend for series fans, but, admittedly, entertainment doesn't come any more disposable. Luckily, I don't mind a meal from a fast-food establishment once in a while (or should that be furious-food?)

Jason Statham (Expendables 3, Redemption) is one of the big additions to this entry, following his appearance in the post-credits stinger that caused quite a buzz at the end of Fast & Furious 6.  Statham plays phenomenally-skilled assassin Deckard Shaw, the older brother of F&F6's Owen Shaw, and he's come to seek revenge on the crew that took his sibling down.  Meanwhile, Dominic is approached by a covert government super-agent named Mr. Nobody (Russell, Death Proof) to help take Shaw out, but before that can happen, he wants a powerful piece of technology known as "God's Eye", which allows the wielder to see and hear things using just about every camera and microphone in existence, and to implement this, an uber-hacker named Ramsey is going to have to be rescued.  Crazy stunts and death-defying set-pieces ensue.

Veteran low-budget-but-lucrative horror-flick director James Wan (Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) takes his first stab at the high-budget action genre, replacing four-timer Justin Lin, and hardly misses a beat, at least in terms of the grand-scale action montages that include quite a number of hand-to-hand combat scenarios in between the elaborate chase sequences.  He leans a bit heavy on shaky-cam for a good part of these, and he does lift a few techniques from the style of Michael Bay (lots of swirling camera shots, computer screens spotlighting superfluous graphics run amok, and extreme zoom-ins to nearly bare female derrieres), but given his previous pedigree, it's still impressive to see he can kick things into high gear when the film needs a dose of adrenaline.

At this point in the series, with each entry trying to outdo the last in terms of over-the-top action, it's about as 'ludicrous' as Chris Bridges' hip-hop moniker would suggest.  The tone exists on two levels that are seemingly at odds with one another -- the emotional connection that the characters have with one another in their makeshift family, and the can't-take-it-at-all-serious elements of the set pieces, in which the characters quip to one another as they put themselves within inches of dying time and again, without any real sense of danger in play. And though the serious and non-serious exists on opposite sides of the spectrum, the movie manages to still maintain its tone of irreverent, devil-may-care attitude that does make for enough fun moments to string together without succumbing to the dullness that comes without a rooting interest in the story at large. 

The maintaining of this tone is not a bad accomplishment for a production plagued by the fatal car crash (not related to the film) of one of its main stars in Paul Walker (Brick Mansions, Hours) during filming.  With the help of Walker's brothers as occasional stand-ins, and some digital trickery, you'd hardly know he was unavailable for a good chunk of it.  The movie ends with an admittedly moving tribute to Walker's character, and a dedication to Paul himself, which shows that, after a half-dozen films, perhaps the talent involved in the making of the franchise have become like their on-screen personas -- a family.

I suppose any film in which the main plot hinges on the obtaining of a piece of technology that will supposedly allow them to find one man when that one man is actively after them and just about appears wherever they go is about as idiotic in concept as can be expected.  This is a movie built on high doses of absurdity (the contrivances to keep high-performance vehicles in the main story shatters every iota of credulity one can possibly muster), but the filmmakers know this, and they know you know they know this.  Logic is cavalierly tossed aside if it gets in the way of "cool" sets of events, including a showdown in Los Angeles in which untold hundreds are likely killed in blasts that take out entire buildings (it's shocking to realize that the military is completely ill equipped to respond to an all-out aerial assault the likes of which this country has never seen before).  That they intentionally bring sure destruction to large chunks of the city and its denizens because it is their home turf should put the term, "heroes", to bed.  And yet, it's only after the fact that such twaddle will occur to you -- one of the benefits of a fast-paced action film, if done right.

At this point, these characters-turned-superheroes are astonishingly nonchalant about explosions occurring around them, including ones that could have killed not only themselves, but also their young children.  Meanwhile, cars jump into and out of buildings without any care as to who might die on the other side, and yet, we're supposed to root on these heroes who aren't above a little vehicular manslaughter if it means having a little fun.  And they're never questioned by any authorities as to their international-newsworthy activities, which surely would get world recognition, ultra-viral commentary, and probably some lengthy jail time for perceived acts of terrorism in whatever respective country they darn near destroy.  Yes, logic be damned. It's a particularly shoddy script, as this vehicle is wholly built upon how much ingenuity they can squeeze into each progressively outlandish action sequence without turning it into a work of science fiction.

Furious 7 is quite the critic-proof movie, as, at this point, the makers are merely set on delivering what fans want, and fans expect nothing more.  As long as these things keep raking in the dough, we're unlikely to get a departure from convention in the way Fast Five rejuvenated the franchise, so, much like the James Bond series, we're going to get bigger, badder, and more explosive from here on, at least until the flavor eventually runs out.  If you've liked the series thus far, you'll probably thoroughly enjoy this one, and if you haven't, this won't be the one that turns you around.  The Fast & Furious franchise aren't movies, they're a fetish, and like most fetishes, those who like it, love it, and the rest won't really understand why millions of devoted fans get off on it.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo