I can’t help but feel happy whenever the Fast & Furious franchise churns out another good offering. Yes, it is hyper-sexualized, physically impossible, and mind-numbing at times, but it is also a franchise that has one of the most honest and genuine cores or themes: family. Especially in the last few entries (with a giant check for Furious 7), they always preach the importance of family and friends.
I can’t fault a franchise for making that their core value. It could be so much worse. Not to mention, I have a soft spot for the, at times, seemingly impossible stunts that they perform and Furious 7 is no exception.
Picking up pretty close to where the last entry left off, Furious 7 introduces Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the big brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) from the last film. After the events of Fast & Furious 6 left Owen dead, Deckard decided to take his revenge out on Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew starting with the death of Han (Sung Kang), which actually happened during the credits of the previous movie.
Deckard is catalyzed into the scene with a one-on-one battle with Hobbes (Dwayne Johnson), which leads to Hobbes being immobilized for most of the film (because I guess they don’t want us to have too much fun? I don’t get it.) Dom must then bring together his team, including Brian (Paul Walker), Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to take down Shaw with the aid of a secret organization run by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).
Fast Five was an expertly crafted action movie. Director Justin Lin (who left after the sixth movie) and screenwriter Chris Morgan (who wrote seven also) ditched the idea of basing the franchise in just car racing and morphed it into an action set-piece unlike anything on the landscape. The heist plot was simple and allowed the characters to do what they do best (beating up people and driving fast) while also having a job to rally behind and keep the plot simple and straight-forward.
Fast & Furious 6 decided that since everyone loved the fifth one so much, they would just blow everything out of proportion and have not one, but two heists, with the team circling around London chasing Owen Shaw. It didn’t work because of how convoluted the whole movie became (not to mention the re-inclusion of the ever dry actress Rodriguez) and left the movie fun, yet ultimately without the simplicity and wit of the previous installment.
Furious 7 must of understood what its predecessor did wrong and new director James Wan instilled a new drive (ha!) into the franchise with a plot that was akin to the fifth movie, but still with the absurdity of the sixth. The plot revolved around Dom and the gang retrieving things for Mr. Nobody, which would lead to their capture of Deckard Shaw, which wasn’t the exact same plot of Fast Five but was close to it enough that it reminded us how much fun that movie was.
It also brought back the insane action pieces of the sixth movie with my personal favorite being the death-defying parachuting stunt that included Dom and the gang parachuting out of a cargo plane, in cars, onto a mountain pass in order to catch up with a highly guarded convoy. The scene was made for the trailers, and was heavily featured, but worked just as well once the actual moment happened.
Wan was solid as an action director and brought some life to the fight scenes (even though the franchise still leans to heavily on editing in their hand-to-hand combat). His camera tilts on a few body slams in fights between Deckard and Hobbes as well as Deckard and Dom were a nice change of pace and felt like a cinematic version of a WWE fight.
But when it comes to fighting, the franchise still feels to connected to the rest of the blockbuster fare and my hope that Wan could institute a more stylistic approach to the combat (something like John Wick) was sadly lost.
Regardless, Furious 7 was a great addition to the franchise and one that should stand as one of the better entries. The cast is great again and the send-off to Paul Walker was perfectly done. The franchise still has room to go and with more entries surely on the way, maybe it can start to stylize their action some more. It has happened in previous entries so all hope is not lost, but either way, it is a staple blockbuster franchise that is doing it right and making a boatload of cash for it.