I have a history with the Fast & Furious franchise. For one thing, the first film nearly got me killed when it came out. I believe I went into the details of that in my review of Fast & Furious 6, which you can read by clicking on the link. Suffice it to say, though I always seem to end up seeing the films, I’m not a huge fan. So it is with a kind of slack-jawed astonishment that I’m telling you that not only is Furious 7 good, not only is it the best film in the series, but it’s the best film of 2015 to date (admittedly not an incredible achievement, but still).
I’m not a hater of the franchise by any means, but you have to understand that these films are primarily made for people who love cars and love driving them fast. The worst thing that can ever happen to an automobile is for me to become its owner. I have not once, but twice, driven cars into houses. The last time just simply trying to back out of a driveway. So a film series targeted at people who get aroused looking at an issue of Car & Driver is not really something that appeals to me. So, that this film kept me smiling, entertained, awed and engaged for over two hours is all the more an amazing feat.
I will admit that the last 30 minutes of Fast 6 really grabbed my interest and contains one of the most incredible stunts I’ve ever seen in any film. That film ended with a post-credits scene of one of the main cast being slaughtered by Jason Statham, this film’s villain and the brother of the character played by Luke Evans in prior films. Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, gives Furious 7 something that most of the other films in the series have lacked: a villain with the skills to do actual harm to Vin Diesel’s family of maniac drivers. From the opening scene, Shaw’s mission of vengeance is given real weight and no one feels untouchable.
The government, as it so happens, is also interested in tracking down Shaw and enlists Diesel’s group, introducing Kurt Russell into the series as….Kurt Russell, but also giving us an excuse to spend more time with, by far, my favorite character in the series: The Rock’s Agent Hobbs. The plot is really just an excuse to run around the world (this almost feels like an old school Bond film at times) and set up different fights and action set pieces, but that’s fine. This is summer popcorn, ‘splosion hugging action times ten, tightly and skillfully directed by James Wan.
The cinematography and fight choreography are outstanding. The cast is enormous and in addition to the old gang, we introduce Tony Jaa, Djimon Honsou, Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel. The chemistry between the core characters is solid and there’s a gravitas behind their band of brothers (and sisters) because of what we know happened to Paul Walker during filming. Walker, who died in a car accident unrelated to the film, is given a very fitting, very poignant send-off. His scenes were finished with the help of his two brothers, and there were a few times I could tell that they were putting Paul’s face on another Walker’s body, but only because I knew what I was looking for and looking at. It’s not distracting at all, and tragic though it is that he didn’t live to see the film’s release, his character’s arc and the film’s quality was in no way diminished by his passing.
I don’t even want to get into the stunts in this film, because they’re so outrageous, so well-done and so over-the-top that I have no idea how they’re going to top themselves in the future. You’ve seen them go car sky diving in the trailer, but that is not even one of the top two stunts in the film. When the film gets to the desert, get ready for something ridiculous (in the context of things already being absurd in this high octane universe).
The series is going to go on without Walker. Diesel has said that Fast 8 will take place in New York, and the movie leaves room open for a sequel. Diesel also has said that Furious 7 is going to win the Oscar for Best Picture (which it would if voting ended today), and I have to say, if it was given out for sheer manic fun, it just might. I thought the 2015 movie year wasn’t going to really start until Avengers: Age of Ultron hit theaters on May 1st, but Furious 7 has brought the sunshine a month earlier.