Synopsis: Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for his comatose brother. (From IMDb)
Review: Fast & Furious 7 will not be the last installment in the franchise, but in many ways it marks the end of an era. This is the last film starring Paul Walker, who tragically passed away in November 2013. Unfortunately, he dies before production ended, so the director had to resort to some creative editing in order to finish the film. Even though Furious 7 contains all the thrills from the other films, Walker’s death hangs heavily over the narrative. It was a bittersweet experience knowing that Brian O’Conner will continue to live on but Walker’s life was tragically cut short. Part of the problem is that before the action sequences really take off, a rather mournful mood is established. Two separate scenes occur in a graveyard. However, the action is still as fun and over-the-top as any other Fast & Furious film.
Back in 2001, Fast & Furious debuted and told the story of an undercover cop attempting to infiltrate the world of Los Angeles street racing. Each additional installment has diverged from that premise in order to explore global espionage and physic defying action sequences. The series has managed to create one of the more original and complex narratives in modern Hollywood. For the most part, each movie tends to be an improvement over the previous ones. The franchise really hit its stride with Fast 5 and Fast 6. Both films feature relatively believable screenplays and tight writing. However, Furious 7 backtracks a little, the screenplay is not as polished as the last two movies. Though I think part of the problem is that the last part of the screenplay had to be rewritten after Walker died and it shows. One of reasons this franchise is fun to watch is the ridiculous and cool action sequences. Usually these scenes are expertly shot and seamlessly woven into the film, sometimes they even make sense. The chase, heist, and combat scenes are what make the movies succeed because no one is watching for the dialogue. However, in Furious 7 the action sequences are haphazardly added into the narrative and do not have enough realistic dialogue to tie everything together.
Furious 7 picks up directly after Fast & Furious 6. In the last film, Dominic Toretto and company defeated a British criminal named Owen Shaw. In Furious 7, Shaw’s older brother Deckard shows up to wage revenge. Also, the film manages to briefly incorporate the characters from The Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. Anyways, Deckard manages to successfully wage war on the heroic street racers and on Luke Hobbs. So Dom and Hobbs decide to retaliate. Along the way, Dom ends up entangling the crew with a shadowy governmental agency run by the suave Mr. Nobody, played by franchise newbie Kurt Russell. This causes them to skydive out of planes in super cars, to drive cars out of skyscrapers, and to travel all over the globe in pursuit of a mysterious hacker. And Deckard is stalking them all across the world. Of all the Furious films, this one has the most convoluted and unnecessarily complicated plot. I found it hard to suspend reality after the US government recruits glorified street racers to conduct a highly classified rescue. Really? The CIA has no one else they could possibly hire to conduct this particular mission? And apparently MI6 cannot take care of a rogue agent, so Dom roars into solve the problem.
I think one of the problems is that Furious 7 was directed by someone new. Justin Lin built the franchise up and grew with each installment. He managed to create a tight knit narrative that grew and matured over time. After six movies, Lin decided to step down from the director’s chair and gave the reins over to James Wan. Director James Wan is more well-known for directing horror films, mainly The Conjuring and Insidious. While the visuals do not miss a beat, the character development is non-existent and the talking scenes are cheesy. None of the Furious films have wonderful dialogue but all the talking scenes seemed slightly off in this installment. The editing is frenetic, the stunts ludicrous (even for this franchise), and the running time is about thirty minutes too long. Wan simply does not have the experience needed to make high octane action scenes seem even remotely realistic. Overall, I did not think Wan’s directorial style meshed well with an action franchise. I have not seen any of his horror films so I am not sure if he is actually a talented director. However, the movie is still better than 2 Fast, 2 Furious.
The most glaring problem is Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor. Brian never feels like a real character in this movie, his role is expendable. The film would play out exactly the same regardless of his involvement. Walker supposedly finished 80% of the film before he died, but I find this is unlikely. There are only a handful of scenes in which Walker actually appears. However, the CGI is amazing and it is hard to tell that Walker is not on screen. About 70% of his dialogue is recycled from other movies and cuts to the same static reactions over and over; the cinematographers do everything they can to keep the camera away from his face. There are a lot of scenes depicting Brian’s back and a lot of running sequences. For the most part, it is barely noticeable during the scenes where Walker’s brothers stepped in and took over. Walker has always been the heart and soul of these films and his reduced role really impacted the sentimentality of Furious 7.
For the most part the rest of the cast successfully reprised their respective roles. Though Dwayne Johnson was underutilized. Unlike the rest of the films, Furious 7 is not about the crew and seems more like the Vin Diesel show. Dom is depicted as a throwback action star, complete with horrific one-liners and slow motion fight scenes. It did not help that Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is an awful and lame villain. Deckard is not a character, he is merely a villainous caricature who dukes it out with Dom, disappears, and then reappears whenever the plot is in danger of dragging. There is no character development and Dom or Hobbs could have easily taken care of him in one of his first scenes. Overall, the cars are as cool as always, but the melodrama is ridiculous and the touching moments come off as laughably instead of affecting. Furious 7 clearly a labor of love and it ends with a moving tribute to Paul Walker. But it is not one of the better installments in the franchise.