The Fast and the Furious franchise is a film series that has gone through the strangest evolution. From a range of films that started as guilty pleasures in a generation of films like Torque – where illegal street races, souped-up vehicles, and the ever-present “NOS” to give that extra speed-boost were the norm – the Fast & Furious movies have since grown to be legitimately impressive films that have shaped the fun side of the action genre.
One can’t ever assume that Fast & Furious made for down-to-Earth realism, so from the later installments such as Fast Five, the movies have embraced the sort of blockbuster cinema we’ve otherwise been lacking. No superheroes or alien threats here, these are movies about family. And fast cars, pretty women, fist fights, more fast cars, and an impressive, diverse, ensemble cast.
But what of Fast & Furious 7?
Well, it may just be the best installment yet. By quite a margin.
For the uninitiated – though you don’t really need to follow the plot too heavily here – Fast & Furious 7 follows a group that includes Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), and more. In previous films they’ve raced together, pulled off heists together, and taken down bad guys together. But having taken down the Big Bad of the last movie, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), his even bigger, badder brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out for revenge.
Fast & Furious 7 is a homecoming of sorts for the franchise. While Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 brought together characters from the movies, Fast & Furious 7 honours the entire series so far, even the lesser appreciated sequels. Characters, elements, vehicles, everything is a tribute.
There are elements and plotlines from the previous films that are brought into this movie. Letty still has amnesia as covered in the previous instalments, which makes for the only few scenes that pull away from the pace and direction; Tokyo Drift – the underappreciated cousin of the movies – is brought into the series canon a little more; Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) – the DSS officer and ally of Toretto and his crew in the last couple of films – confronts and is hospitalised by Shaw, kickstarting events, and setting up one of many brilliant pay-offs for the character in the third act.
The film is also a tribute to the tragically passed actor Paul Walker, whose presence is strongly felt here. Despite not being able to complete filming, Walker’s performance and likeness lives on in Fast & Furious 7, thanks to just how far technology has come. Thankfully, we don’t get Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy here. For the most part you won’t even notice unless you’re actively looking for it. But you shouldn’t, because it’s spot on. O’Conner isn’t pushed back at all from the limelight, he’s celebrated, and that’s wonderful. It may even pull the rug from beneath your feet by the film’s end, because it is the most tasteful, beautiful tribute that doesn’t feel at all out of place. It services the story and the narrative of these movies, and even if the franchise continues, it will work.
And boy does Fast & Furious 7 work. As the most fun you’ll have at the cinema in quite a while (at least… until Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out in a couple of weeks), just like the previous couple of instalments, Fast & Furious 7 knows exactly what sort of film it is. From director James Wan (director of Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring), Fast & Furious 7 is like a Michael Bay movie without all of the offensiveness. It’s like the Bad Boys III we’ll never have. Which basically means it is absolutely ridiculous in the absolute best of ways.
It’s overwhelming just how crazy the movie gets. If you’ve seen the trailer – where cars are thrown out of a cargo plane and parachute onto a narrow, cliffside road to chase down a bus armed with armour-piercing machine guns – that’s still just a slice of what you get. Even in just that sequence. That’s a heavily edited chunk of what feels like a 20+ minute set-piece. And that isn’t even a bad thing. James Wan has helped create a Spielberg-ian set-piece, turned it to 11, and then pumped it with steroids. Then he does it again a few more times.
As mentioned before, the plot doesn’t really need to be paid attention to. There’s a whole thing about the Macguffin of the “God’s Eye” (think Batman’s surveillance tech in The Dark Knight) that catalyses the action and the changes in location, but the trailer and scenes involving Kurt Russell’s character Frank Petty (which, by the way, is a brilliant use of Russell, who even gets a great character moment as well) tell you what you need to know. They’ve unwittingly “created a monster” in Deckard Shaw, and he’s going to hunt down our protagonists. The Macguffins and the globe-trotting are inconsequential, but they give us the basis for each brilliant sequence.
Overwhelmingly fun, ambitious, and crazy, you’ll be surprised with each new action beat, and be fist pumping, laughing and revelling in each awesome moment. A bit of the hand-to-hand combat is disappointing in the way it’s shot, but there’s more than enough to keep you hooked.
The only thing this review needs to do is describe the very first scene. So here goes. Fade in. London. Deckard Shaw stands in a hospital ward, looking out the window. After some talking, he looks over to his hospitalised brother, before leaving. But not without warning the nurses to look after his little brother unless they want him to return. Then, as we follow him, we see carnage. Lights shattered. Windows smashed. SWAT teams and policemen scattered around. Shaw gets into the lift as the credits speed by. As he leaves the elevator he tells a SWAT member to “Hold this”, hands him a grenade, and pushes him back into a chair. The grenade goes off as Shaw leaves through the hospital’s front door, revealing half the exterior pretty much destroyed.
From there on you just know you’re in for a ride. And what a ride it is.
Definitely go and watch it. No hesitations.
Fast and Furious 7 is out nowl. It is directed by James Wan, written by Chris Morgan, and stars an ensemble cast that includes Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, and Michelle Rodriguez.