A film review by Craig J. Koban April 8, 2015


2015, PG-13, 140 mins.


Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto  /  Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs  /  Jason Statham as Ian Shaw  /  Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner  /  Lucas Black as Sean Boswell  /  Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz  /  Elsa Pataky as Elena  /  Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto  /  Djimon Hounsou as Slim  /  Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce  /  Nathalie Emmanuel as Megan  /  Tony Jaa as Louie Tran  /  Shad Moss as Twinkie  /  Ludicrous as Tej Parker

Directed by James Wan  /  Written by Chris Morgan

There’s an action sequence midway through FURIOUS 7, the seventh (count ‘em...SEVENTH!?) film in the FAST AND FURIOUS series that highlights its go-for-broke penchant for action sequences that border on the sublimely ridiculous.  

The scene in question features Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his squad parachuting out of a cargo jet that's flying over Azerbaijan…while in their cars.  They manage to fall through the heavens and land perfectly on a narrow freeway – heavily flanked by mountains and trees –  so they can peruse their targets for their next big score.  Forget about why they needed to skydive in their cars to reach the road…the fact is that they did it while occupying the unapologetically ape-shit crazy universe that these films reside in. 

That’s just one of a handful of action sequences that made me howl with approving laughter all throughout FURIOUS 7, a film that’s so positively crammed with over-the-top extremes that most people in the audience left the theater after the screening with strained necks from all of the head shaking done at the incredulity thrown on screen.  The FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, to be fair, has no business being as fresh, novel, and crazily entertaining as it has been this relatively late in the proceedings.  After a somewhat stalled attempt to get the series back to its roots – with its two principle leads in Diesel and Paul Walker – in 2009’s FAST AND FURIOUS, it miraculously course corrected with the gloriously entertaining FAST FIVE (which retrofitted the franchise from a purely auto porn action series and into a heist thriller) and the mostly engaging FAST AND FURIOUS 6.  You may recall that FAST FIVE set a benchmark for wanton on-screen absurdity, having a finale involving Dom and Brain O'Connor racing through the streets of Rio while dragging a bank vault behind them. 

FURIOUS 7 seems to amp up the wild-eyed preposterousness of its last two films to the next proverbial level.  The cartoonish fisticuffs, gun battles, car chases, crashes, and overall vehicular mayhem have reached levels so inanely improbable here that they border on self-parody.  Matching this film’s unbridled and mostly inspired ludicrousness is the rather unexpected poignant edge that it maintains throughout, ostensibly because of Paul Walker’s tragic and ironic death in a horrific car accident before the film was even half finished (his brothers Caleb and Cody were used as stand-ins to complete his remaining scenes with computer generated face lifts in some shots).  FURIOUS 7’s Herculean silliness did not surprise me much, but what did was the refreshingly tactful manner that the script dealt with and acknowledged the passing of its main star.  Throughout the film you marvel at all of its nitro-fuelled silliness, but in the end the film attains some dramatic brevity that one never comes to expect from this series as a whole. 



FURIOUS 7 takes place precisely after the events of FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (which ended during the events of THE FAST AND FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT, but never mind…too confusing).  We were introduced to new series badass Ian Shaw (Jason Statham), whom has decided to seek some bloody comeuppance on Dom and his posse for the death of his brother.  Because Shaw is, of course, an ex-black ops agent, he can stay in the shadows and under the radar…that is unless he feels like literally killing everyone in a hospital (as shown in FURIOUS 7’s opening sequence).  First on Shaw’s “To Kill List” is Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), which miraculously leaves Hobbs in the hospital, but not dead.  Next up for Shaw involves him remote blowing up Dom’s family home, but Shaw misses the target of actually killing Dom, his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), her husband Brain (Walker) and their young son. 

Predictably, Dom wants revenge, seeing as he’s a staunch family man above all else.  Thankfully – and rather conveniently – a slick government agent (newcomer Kurt Russell, juicily chewing scenery) enters in and offers Dom any and all available resources at his disposal – including his old crew, one being Dom’s on-again, off-again amnesiac girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) – to track down Shaw as well as another vile terrorist scumbag (Djimon Hounsou) from unleashing the full power of a new GPS tracking system called “God’s Eye” that can find anyone anywhere on the planet.  Rather unavoidably, Dom and company leave a whole lot of destruction in their wake in their efforts to get possession of God’s Eye while ridding the world of the two terrorists once and for all. 

If I were to levy a complaint against this installment then it would be that director James Wan (director of the first SAW film and INSIDIOUS, replacing Justin Lin) perhaps utilizes too much CG tinkering instead of real-world practical car effects this go around.  This has the negative effect of lessening any tangible force that many auto-heavy action sequences have and also nullifies any sense of palpable tension.  He also – much like way too many modern action directors – frames sequences in a dizzying barrage of micro-edits and frenetic camera pans, which lessens spatial choreography and overall clarity.  Yet, there’s still no denying the sheer impact that some of FURIOUS 7’s set pieces have, like the aforementioned skydiving cars montage or a remarkable humdinger of a sequence showing Brian running up the edge of a bus that’s teetering and about to fall off a cliff.  There’s a sensationally effective – albeit jaw-droppingly improbable – scene involving Dom and Brain jumping an armored sports car between multiple high-rise buildings in India.  Now, I comprehend how impossible it is for the heroes – and the vehicle – to survive such an ordeal, but it sure looks exhilaratingly nifty. 

Of course, Wan unleashes physical battles between multiple adversaries as well, one of which is a stunningly brutal donnybrook between Letty and Ronda Rousey – both wearing evening gowns (don't ask) – and a climatic street fight between Dom and Shaw that doesn’t disappoint on its intended levels.  What does kind of disappoint, though, is the rather lackluster development of Shaw as a worthy villain (Statham can look steely eyed and menacing with the best of them, but on paper Shaw is pretty thin and not utilized to his maniacal fullest).  Equally forgettable is Hounsou’s redundantly added protagonist, a character that never really adds anything to the overall story beyond serving as another obligatory plot device/obstacle for Dom’s team.   Then there’s also another new character in the form of Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey, a gorgeous computer hacker with intimate knowledge of God’s Eye that spends a lion’s share of her screen time being rescued and saved while she paradoxically has all the power. 

At 140 minutes, FURIOUS 7 also runs the risk of attaining Michael Bay-ian levels of self-indulgent bloat, which leaves the film feeling more exhausting at the end then truly thrilling.  The film has acting that borders on cringe worthy at times featuring soggy dialogue that is intended to provide exposition on characters and an overall storyline that’s too convoluted for its own good.  Thankfully, FURIOUS 7 never wallows too long on character dynamics and making sense of its bizarre and out-there plotting.  Instead, it’s a mostly – pardon the pun – well-oiled engine at showcasing human beings and cars doing impossibly outlandish things that defy the modest rules of logic and science.  The film never attains the franchise rejuvenating spirit of FAST FIVE (this one feels like its going through the paces a bit more leisurely and safely), but as far as seventh films in a series go, FURIOUS 7 gets the job done better than most.   

And as a final swan song for Paul Walker, the film pays respectful homage to him, his career, and character with remarkable taste while setting up the further cinematic adventures of Dominic Torreto.  That’s a pretty tricky feat for any film to pull off. 

  H O M E