UK Release Date: 3rd April 2015
Runtime: 137 minutes
Director: James Wan
Writer: Chris Morgan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel
Synopsis: The crew, trying to live a quiet life, are pursued by the highly trained, homicidal brother of the man they crippled in the last film.
The Fast & Furious franchise was riding high off the back of two resounding successes when tragedy struck. In 2013, central cast member Paul Walker was killed in a single-vehicle car accident, midway through filming the franchise’s latest entry, Fast & Furious 7. Production was put on hold for script rewrites and reshoots, but the franchise came revving its way back into cinemas, just as it always does.
Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is attempting to live the quiet life whilst helping Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) regain her old memories. Meanwhile, his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and best friend Brian (Walker) are expecting their second child together. Their peace is soon shattered, however, when they come into contact with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who will stop at nothing to avenge his brother – crippled by Toretto’s crew in the last film.
Despite surface resemblance to the work of Michael Bay, the Fast & Furious films have always been lame-brained action movies with a difference. Crucially, that difference is a core group of characters that the audience cares for and genuinely wants to see succeed. It is this that provides Fast & Furious 7 with a method to its mayhem and a genuinely emotional finale.
| "The thing about street fights… the street always wins."
The driving force at the centre of Fast & Furious 7 is a dual narrative. On one hand, there are the crew’s attempts to deal with the threat posed by Jason Statham’s gravel-voiced Deckard Shaw. In the film’s early stages, he is a terrific evil force, sharing a fistfight with the incomparable Dwayne Johnson that truly feels like a brutal clash of two action movie behemoths. However, the film ultimately seems to sideline Statham in favour of its other, more clunky, story.
That other story focuses on Kurt Russell’s mysterious Mr Nobody, who recruits the team to prevent an all-seeing computer program falling into the hands of terrorists. If they succeed, he will allow them to use the program to locate Shaw. Fast & Furious 7 is on less sure ground with this narrative, which eschews the obvious commentary it could’ve made on surveillance culture.
Instead, this story merely seems like a placeholder for the endless, jaw-dropping action set pieces, which include Diesel and Walker driving a supercar between three skyscrapers. New director James Wan, best known for horror films like Insidious and The Conjuring, seems perfectly at home with the franchise.
There’s an inventiveness to the action in Fast & Furious 7 that separates it from other action efforts. It also helps that the action is powered by character, particularly effective given the real-life poignancy of Walker’s final performance.
| "Nothing’s sadder than locking a beast in a cage."
There is a problem with Fast & Furious 7 in the sense that, in common with just about every modern blockbuster, it’s too long. The third act smackdown, although entertaining, feels over-inflated and indulgent. Thankfully, the final moments – in which Walker gets a touching goodbye – are tender enough to bring a tear to even the most masculine of eyes.
Pop or Poop?
Equal parts thrilling and poignant, Fast & Furious 7 is a unique blockbuster experience. The high-octane fun of the franchise meshes sweetly with the touching send-off that series stalwart Paul Walker deserved.
The bloated runtime is an issue, as is the lack of narrative focus, but newbie director James Wan does a solid job behind the camera. It’s the characters that really fly, though, and they will keep the franchise rolling on for years to come.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.