Published on April 6th, 2015 | by Ian Goodwillie0
When The Fast and Furious franchise became self-aware, they also became watchable on a fun, actioneering popcorn movie level. Here’s our review of Furious 7.
I went a long time without ever seeing a movie in the Fast and Furious franchise. Then, the sixth movie kept popped up on a movie channel. The film itself was ridiculous, particularly the final car/plane chase on a runway too long to exist in real life involving a plane that might actually too big to fly in real life.
Then that damn post-credits hook scene popped up with Jason Statham killing off one of the main characters. I was…driven to go back and watch the rest.
Fortunately, iterations one through five were all available on Netflix. They are, to say the least, ludicrous. The first three films, particularly the second film, are virtually unwatchable. And the third one doesn’t involve any of the characters from the first two. There’s also the issue of the chronology; the events of the third movie technically take place after the sixth film, somewhat in the initial stages of the seventh. The character who dies at the end of the sixth film at the hands of Jason Statham actually dies in the exact same fashion in the third movie, then continues to appear in four, five, and six with little or no explanation of how he’s there. The sixth movie credits teaser just finally provide context.
So here we are, seven films deep in the franchise and for the first time ever I went to one in theatres. For all the over-the-top plots, physically/logically impossible action sequences, and overwrought, scenery chewing acting, this has actually become a reliable action franchise.
After taking the directorial reigns in with the third movie, Justin Lin’s tenure brought consistency to the cast and an over arching story that carried the film through much of its run. Each movie he directed cherry picked the characters that worked in previous offerings, adding ones that worked and taking away those that ran their course as they went. This model allowed a world to grow inside of this franchise, almost more like a TV series than movies. James Wan has taken over as director for round seven and is building off what Lin has established.
What works, first and foremost, is the action. The car chases are unsurprisingly a key part of these movies. Each film finds a way to take them up another notch. While they frequently defy logic, reason, and physics, they are a lot of fun to watch.
Beyond that, there are some fantastic fight scenes, as well. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnston and Jason Statham have a great go around. The late Paul Walker and Tony Jaa also have a couple of outstanding fights, one on an out of control bus heading for a cliff. And UFC star Ronda Rousey and Michelle Rodriguez have a hell of a fight. This fight is possibly the best one in the movie. The others are cool but there’s an intensity in the Rousey/Rodriguez fight the others just don’t have, at least in the same way. To paraphrase The Rock, they both brought it.
I have to admit that the cast also works well, each one playing the parts that suit them. Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, and Tony Jaa all play perfectly ridiculous villains. Kurt Russell oddly steals the show as the enigmatic Mr. Nobody, the leader of some clandestine anti-terrorist organization. There’s a point in the movie that he puts on some special sunglasses that let him see in the dark and he Snake Pilsskens the crap out of a bunch of bad guys. It’s kind of awesome. And Dwayne is straight up The Rock in this movie. It’s like he’s cutting promos in a WWE ring half the time and it actually works in this context.
Then there’s the story.
The story in all of these films is always terrible, and frequently barely comprehensible. Furious 7 is no different. There are a lot of core internal logic flaw to these films, a big one being why law enforcement keeps trusting these international criminals to deal with terrorists and other problems on their behalf. Characters like Russell’s just seem to appreciate their moxie. Their car stealing, breaking and entering, assaulting everyone in sight moxie.
The universal overacting frequently makes portions of this movie completely unwatchable, as it does in previous iterations. The scenery can barely stand up it’s been chewed on so hard. But it’s almost forgivable as everyone is equally terrible and it actually becomes an expected part of the Furious franchise.
These films work because they accept their own internal flaws, the bad acting, the terrible story, and the laws of physics defying action scenes to create something incredibly entertaining to watch if you’re willing to let go of all rationality. Honestly, the last few Furious films are what The Expendables films would like to be if they weren’t so weighed down by the bloated egos of aging 80s action stars.
But that’s not why so many people flocked to Furious 7 this weekend, and apparently damn near 400 million dollars worth of people did. Many of them went because they wanted to know how the franchise would handle the loss of one of its main actors, Paul Walker.
In case you were unaware, Walker died during the filming of Furious 7. Not on set but in a car accident off set where excessive speed was a factor. It was an unfortunately ironic tragedy that needed to be addressed for this film to work and for future films to be made. Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, was given the chance to retire and raise his family in a scene at the end of the movie that featured him driving off into the sunset with a Vin Diesel voiceover saying goodbye to his brother.
Most people watching the film were probably waiting for them to kill O’Conner off and the filmmakers made the right choice not to do that. It would have added an unnecessarily negative tone to the film that already had Walker’s death looming over it.
But the voiceover scene pseudo broke the fourth wall as the franchise said goodbye to an on screen character and a real life person. It’s a hard thing to do and there’s no right way to make it work but the Furious 7 crew did as good a job as they possibly could. That being said, it’s a strange scene to watch as the entire tone of the movie suddenly switches gears and ends on this moment.
Ultimately, this franchise is here to stay regardless of who is in it. And with a $384 million haul on its opening weekend, you can bet that Furious 8, 9, and 10 are being planned. So just sit down, relax, and shut your brain off for a couple of hours. You might actually enjoy yourself. But seriously stop thinking. The more you pick at the internal logic, the quicker the whole thing falls apart.