It should be said from the outset that a film like Furious 7 is a genuine example of something the film industry considers critic-proof. In other words, it matters little what reviewers critique or praise, its fan base is already standing in line; a review is simply for the record. Curiously, the poster uses a number for its title but the film’s credits spell it out to Seven
The bad guy from Fast and Furious 6, Owen Shaw is in a London hospital hanging on to life. As a result, the brother we never knew he had, a really bad guy called Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is on the warpath and intends to make the Fast and Furious gang pay; it’s just that simple.
After a bomb sent by Shaw blows Vin Diesel’s L.A. home into splintered shreds, it’s time to get those cars revved up and back on the road, or, as Diesel’s Dominic Toretto puts it, “Time to unleash the beast.” And they’re off, literally falling from the sky while strapped in their shiny vehicles and landing somewhere on the mountain roads of Azerbaijan, then skipping over to Abu Dhabi in newer and even shinier vehicles, then irresponsibly inviting everyone to finish the street wars back in Los Angeles. All I could think of was who’s in charge of the passports?
The story adds a few complicated layers with the introduction of Kurt Russell as a mysterious though mostly good guy called Frank Petty. In addition to tracking down Shaw, Frank wants the gang to rescue a kidnapped computer geek called Ramsey whose brilliant mind has developed a program called God’s Eye, a nice piece of software that can follow anyone anywhere in the world who has a cell with a lens, perhaps the most frightening development of all.
Ramsey, it turns out, is not quite the spotty-faced geek with nerdy glasses that you might expect. Instead, in keeping with the overall theme of hot, shiny things, Ramsey is an attractive young, bikini-clad babe with an English accent (Nathalie Emmanuel from HBO’s Game of Thrones) that both Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Parker (Ludacris, though now billed as Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) drool over as she emerges from the ocean in slow motion while the camera leeringly searches every part of her curvy body from top to bottom, just in case there’s a bit we missed.
In fact, throughout the film, director James Wan has his cinematographer Stephen F. Windon track every possible butt shot he can find. When female extras walk by, the close up is always a tight shot on their equally tight behinds. At an introductory sun-drenched beach party, every bikini clad bottom appears to be sticking up in the air dripping with water as if MTV had gone extra crazy on one of those Spring Break Gone Wild segments. When the obligatory street race opens the film, the young female race mediator with the shortest pleated skirt in movie racing history is shot from behind, then from below looking up in order to savor her cheeks to their maximum reveal. Was Michael Bay a consultant on this thing?
Dialog is either mostly quips as in “Touch down, baby!” or “Let’s do this,” or weirdly philosophical as in Diesel’s “They say an open road makes you think; where you’ve been; where you’re going,” or Statham declaring in his whispery growl that “If you want to glimpse the future, you have to look at the past.” After that particular golden nugget, Statham then adds, “I used to think that was bullocks.” I’m not sure what it was that changed his mind, but he’s wrong; it’s still bollocks.
The dare-devil stunts are, as you would expect, exemplary and reckless. Cars fly through the air, crash through the windows of buildings, flip, turn, and even do wheelies. At one point, Diesel and Statham engage in a spectacular, head-on collision, though not surprisingly, even though both in the real world would have died instantly, their characters climb out of their destroyed vehicles with hardly a stagger or a scratch. And there lies the biggest problem with the film.
Somehow, everyone involved has developed some kind of superhuman power to emerge from the most back-breaking, bone-crunching event possible with neither a bruise nor a cut. The ante for presenting the most cinematically death defying stunts ever may have been raised, but despite the ear-splitting noise – particularly if you see the film in IMAX – and some of the most unbelievably amazing vehicular chases you’ll ever witness, there’s never a real sense of either excitement or danger. You know the characters are going to simply walk away, ready for more. Once again, like the cartoon violence of a Wily Coyote short where anvils flatten heads or a stick of dynamite blows bodies to shreds, these characters are always back and running around within seconds. We should never lose sight of the fact that all of this is intentionally absurd, but the film’s preposterous level can be summed up in the one scene where car mechanic Michelle Rodriguez fights undefeated UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and mixed martial artist, Ronda Rousey. Guess who walks away.
Fans of the series will no doubt be fascinated by how the production handles the sad passing of Paul Walker who died in the middle of the shoot. Here, the film uses Walker’s two younger brothers for certain segments while digitally adding Walker’s face to their bodies. With script rewrites and some new scenes, director Wan handles it well. The character’s final send off should impress fans.
At two hours and seventeen minutes, Furious 7 doesn’t know when to quit and doesn’t seem to want to. Of course, we know it bares no resemblance to anything remotely real – this isn’t just over-the-top; its off-the-map outrageousness stretches to infinite and beyond – but that shouldn’t give it license to do whatever it wants without some kind of consequence to the health of the characters just because it looks good and sounds cool.
When Diesel’s Dominic pulls back a tarpaulin and reveals his cherished, classic vehicle, he mutters, “One last ride.” I seriously doubt it.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 140 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)