I don’t know how the heist-on-wheels The Fast and the Furious speed franchise became the blockbuster action series it did, but I’m a fan. I dig these movies, enjoy the comic-book plotting and pulp characters and macho codes of brotherhood and familia, and appreciate a modern action spectacle that favors actual rubber-on-the-road stunts over CGI wizardry (Mad Max: Fury Road shares that devotion but with a more mythic dimension). Since the fourth installment, these films put the pedal to the metal and get airborne before they’re over, and the momentum never flags.
James Wan, who made the original Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, takes over with Furious 7 from Justin Lin, who transformed the failing franchise into an international phenomenon. Wan follows his lead, putting the emphasis on elaborate stunt sequences and team camaraderie and loyalty, and turns out to be quite adept at action spectacle. There’s nothing new to the formula here—it’s basically a revenge drama and the team, led by Vin Diesel’s papa bear and former fed turned brother-in-law Paul Walker, comes out of retirement (once again) to take on the threat directly—but the character is ladled on thick and the stunts are so outrageous that you either dismiss the whole thing out of hand or go with the madness and enjoy the ride.
In fact, la familia gets bigger as Dwayne Johnson, the government agent who once set out to put them all away, gives them the heads up and Kurt Russell, a fellow agent with the not-at-all comic book name of Mr. Nobody, coaxes them into driving for their side. Because, of course, all that can stop an all-powerful surveillance program from landing in enemy hands is a high-speed interception on a winding mountain road. There’s a squad of sports cars making a precision parachute landing in the middle of nowhere, a Somali terrorist, a car chase the involves leapfrogging across skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, and a shoot-out on the night streets of Los Angeles. Jason Statham is the insane Special Forces veteran who wants vengeance for his international criminal brother (killed in the last movie) and Thailand martial arts phenom Tony Jaa (The Protector) shows off his mad skills as a terrorist henchman. As an added bonus, it turns out that high-precision, physics-defying, bat-shit crazy vehicular antics are useful in repairing plot twist-induced memory loss.
Paul Walker died during the shooting and some complicated CGI was used to keep him a central part of the story. To the film’s credit, you’ll likely never notice, but you will find a fitting send-off to the character and the actor in the epilogue. Family, after all, is forever.
Also available to own on DVD and Blu-ray
Furious 7 [DVD]
Furious 7 [Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet]