I do not like the Fast and Furious (FF) movies, but I do not hate them. As per my criteria, a movie must insult the audience (Michael Bay), have awful writing (Amazing Spider-Man 2), give no effort what so ever (Taken 3), or fail to live up to what it is trying to be (Get Hard) for me to hate it. Other films considered bad lack the elements for me to loathe them, the FF movies included.
I watched the last two and found myself wanting. Besides actress/MMA fighter Gina Carano, Michelle Rodriguez, and Dwayne Johnson, nothing resonated with me. In a world of Dredd, The Raid, and old school action, FF is nothing special. I was bored to the point of complete mental vacancy. The movies are not bad, but the sum of their parts cannot convince me to like them. Is Furious 7 (F7) more of the same or does it do something different?
After six movies, FF has finally embraced what it is: a celebration of schlock excess. It is unafraid of what it wants to be, enjoying its premise of Vehicular Combat, and a message so corny it makes sense in the context of the world. Most of all, it found a way to have a fun and get me invested. It has been a while since I enjoyed the experience of a major mainstream release.
Following the end of Furious 6, Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, brother of Owen Shaw, vows to take out Dom Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, and the rest of his crew. Their lives in danger, the family reassembles and sets out on a globetrotting journey to bring Deckard to justice.
F7 is what the FF movies should have been; the film Michael Bay wishes he could make. While the previous six took themselves too seriously, the latest installment goes full throttle (no pun intended) into insanity and plays it completely straight. The characters know what they do is beyond the boundaries of reality, but act as though everything is normal. Cars fall out of a plane and land safely on a road, another jumps between two skyscrapers, and everyone knows how to fight like a hand-to-hand expert. They embrace the schlock.
The characters make F7 as much as the action. Sure they are hilariously sappy with their cultish dedication to family and loyalty, but it is wholesome enough one can forgive it in a movie with insane car stunts.
Tyrese Gibson’s character Roman is considered comic-relief, but I see him as the straight-man that knows more about the crazy world he lives in and wants nothing to do with it.
Though not really special as a generic actor, Paul Walker played the average white guy fairly well in an ethnically diverse series of movies. He was an essential addition and will be missed
Michelle Rodriguez was good as the amnesiac Letty. She had a more physical presence in a nice scene with Ronda Rousey, but it happened once before she was confined to the driver’s seat for the rest of the movie.
Jason Statham played a great villain with radically contrasting ideals to the heroes’ honor based morality. It is a shame, however, that he was under utilized and only shows up when the plot needs him.
The same applies to Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs, who spends most of the time in a hospital bed. If you cast The Rock, make every effort to keep him on screen. The man singlehandedly made Pain & Gain, a Michael Bay movie, watchable.
The set-ups for the car stunts are great, but the execution leaves much to be desired. While the film uses actual cars, there are places with obvious CG that blatantly stick out. It is jarring, especially when scenes with physical stunts are real. It gets me invested in what is going on because I can see the effort the actors put forth to make it look genuine. When I see a ton of corner-cutting digital effects, I am taken right out of the movie. If anything, it gets me excited for the promise of practical car stunts in Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by the man that invent the Vehicular Combat genre.
Furious 7 is fun. If you like to have fun without being insulted, go see it. Even a cynical monster like myself enjoyed my time in theater. This is a film you can safely turn your brain off and enjoy in the most earnest way possible.