Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez
It’s hard to believe that the Fast & Furious franchise once began life as a moderately budgeted B-movie rip off of Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Fast-forward fourteen years, six films and over two billion dollars later and Universal’s vehicular box office behemoth has become the company’s most profitable and most successful franchise of all time. And with Furious 7 already on track to score big this week, it’s no wonder that Universal want to keep the Nitrous flowing and engines revving.
With ever increasing budgets and even more elaborate stunts, the Fast & Furious series is an A-list franchise that prides itself in its B-movie roots and Furious 7 is no different. It is a film that does exactly what it says on the tin and then blows the tin into oblivion just because it can. By now you should all know what this franchise is about, and if you’re expecting anything different then you’ve come to the wrong place. Furious 7 is all about fast cars, globe trotting locales, muscular bald headed men, tough women and things going VROOOM before going BOOM as cars parachute themselves out of airplanes and go tumbling over cliffs.
This time around, Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his team face off against Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the older brother of Owen Shaw, the criminal who they took down in the last movie. With a jowly growl, Statham’s Shaw is out for vengeance and hell-bent on eliminating Dom and his team. Meanwhile, Dom’s crew are hired by a shady government official to track down a computer hacker and acquire a surveillance program called God’s Eye.
The plot, of course, means absolutely bugger all; it’s threadbare enough to pull everything together and merely used as the connective tissue between the next exotic locale and the insane over the top explosion. A side trip to Abu Dhabi merely exists for the film’s signature stunt that sees Diesel and Walker drive a really expensive super car across three skyscrapers.
After seven movies (three of which have set the standard for the franchise) everything is beginning to feel a bit stale. All the boxes are neatly checked. Cars are destroyed, stunts are carried out with expert efficiency, Michelle Rodriguez fights another MMA star for, you know, reasons. Seeing a car flying through the air between buildings is a ton of fun, but the wow factor has now dissipated. Having directed four out of the seven films, Justin Lin made way for James Wan for this instalment that should’ve heralded something new for the franchise. However, Wan (best known for The Conjuring and Insidious) slots himself so comfortably into the Furious aesthetic that he brings absolutely nothing new to proceedings other than some poorly shot and choppily edited fight scenes. Jason Statham also feels wasted as the villain never allowed his time to shine and never as menacing nor as memorable as he should be.
As we all know, Furious 7 arrives on a sombre note. Production halted halfway through filming following the tragic and untimely death of star Paul Walker which required the creative team to delay the film to rework the script, before completing the film with a combination of stand ins (played by Walker’s own brothers) and CGI. For the most part, the finished result is seamless, utilising a few well-placed camera angles and low-lit rooms here and there to disguise the transition. And while the film never hits the notes it should, Walker’s wonderfully heartfelt tribute at the end of the film is a testament to a man who was clearly loved by the cast and crew.
Furious 7 is more of the same, which is either a good or bad thing depending on your viewpoint. As far as the franchise stands though, this is a major disappointment. With a second-rate villain and a stench of familiarity, here’s hoping that the team can do something different for the next instalment.