To take Furious Seven seriously is akin to eating Jell-O with chopsticks. It’s the wrong approach. This $190 million blockbuster, according to IMDB.com, is hardly a movie at all. Instead, it’s a hybrid of three things: a roller coaster filled with gravity-defying car stunts on an epic scale, a proper sendoff to one of its now-deceased actors, and a glorified Super Bowl commercial that objectifies everything. In short, it’s dumb fun that’s very well executed…and expensive.
The seventh installment of Universal Studio’s franchise is a completely new model made up of mostly the same parts. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Dwayne Johnson return as Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner, and Luke Hobbs, respectively. The primary newcomer is action star Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, an ex-special ops turned wanted assassin. Director James Wan, known for horror movies such as Saw and The Conjuring, gets his first turn behind the film’s steering wheel. He brings a series of unique camera movements to action scenes, giving a unique perspective to the action.
The main focus of this movie is revenge. Throughout six previous movies, elite California street racers became heist masters in Brazil and London. This time, it’s all about revenge. Deckard Shaw, the brother of the villain in Furious Six, is hunting Toretto and his team of racers. After Shaw kills one member, Toretto seeks to avenge his friend’s death. The plot is razor thin, but no matter. It’s the cars, the over-the-top stunts, and the beautiful women that matter most.
Unfortunately, the film carries the burden of dealing with the semi-absence of its main actor. Paul Walker passed away in a car accident in November of 2013. He had completed roughly 85% of his scenes, according to cast member Tyrese Gibson.
In the scenes Walker did appear, he shines. The rest of the time, his two brothers stood in and doubled as O’Conner. “They were on set with us every day,” Diesel said in an interview. Techniques like camera-angle trickery, CGI, and use of lighting are used to keep his character in the movie. It is an awkward balance, as O’Conner, a main character, is sometimes held to just a background character in some scenes.
According to Wan, later added to the film during reshoots is a subplot in which O’Conner’s wife becomes pregnant with a second child. This sets up the eventual retirement of Walker’s character from his dangerous lifestyle. The last two minutes of the film are a heartfelt tribute to Walker and his character. He and his car drive off into the distance, with a narration from Diesel’s Toretto, “No matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter mile away or halfway around the world,” Diesel narrates, “You’ll always be with me, and you’ll always be my brother.” Tissues are a must.
This latest installment maintains its signature stamp in the Hollywood blockbuster mosaic. Almost every action sequence is a high-speed chase. The framework is 1968’s Bullitt, if heavily injected with steroids. However, what separates this movie from its predecessors is summed up with the recurring line, “Cars don’t fly.” It’s ironic, and funny, because we see cars being dropped out of airplanes like skydivers. At one point, a rare sports car drives and crashes through three different glass buildings. Every action scene is more adrenaline-pumped, ridiculous, anti-laws of physics than the previous one. “I said to myself, ‘He should’ve died here, he should’ve died here,’” one theatergoer said.
Sandwiched in between these gargantuan sequences are montages that feel like a collection of Super Bowl Sunday commercials and a hip-hop music video. Slender women are seen dancing in bikinis on several occasions. There’s even a close-up of one woman’s rear-end as she walks passed as racecar. Corona even gets a special product placement, bucket of ice and all.
Certain scenes resemble ones from modern blockbusters. That’s not a bad thing. They are thoroughly entertaining. The middle act feels like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Undercover, our heroes from the streets attend a wealthy penthouse party, dressed for a red carpet event. The climactic confrontation in Los Angeles matches the scale of The Dark Knight Rises’ climax. However, instead of Batman’s jet catching a bomb on wheels, this film pits cars versus drones. In Furious Seven, cars might not fly, but the intensity, the mindlessness, and the fun are all sky high.