There’s no getting around talking about this movie without mentioning the crowd I saw it with. This was a last minute addition to SXSW Film Festival this year, and by last minute, I mean they got the green light to show it the day of the screening. So, when people got word of this, they got, to put it mildly, a little crazy. Prior to the screening festival organizers introduced the movie, bringing out the likes of director James Wan and Tyrese Gibson, and it was like The Beatles stepping off the plane in New York City, except replace teenage girls with mostly fully grown men, 1,000 fans ready to devour whatever mayhem was put in front of them. It was both a sight I was glad to witness and one I was a little embarrassed to be in. Because, the thing is, I am not a big fan of the Fast and Furious franchise and was not particularly enthused to see Furious 7.
I don’t find the characters all that compelling, especially the team’s leader Dom (Vin Diesel). The action set pieces are typically inventive in concept but mangled with a quick-cutting execution. I want to have fun during these movies, but something keeps holding me back. Furious 7 is probably the film of the series I enjoyed the most, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good movie.
Picking up right where Fast & Furious 6 left off, we see Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), out for revenge for the death of his brother, targeting our Fast crew (I mean family, as is stressed over and over again). In order for them to find Shaw, they meet up with Kurt Russell, after Dwayne Johnson‘s Hobbs is sidelined. The US Government has lost the most powerful hacking device in the world called “God’s Eye”, which is basically able to tap into any electronic device around the world. If the crew finds this device, the government will allow them to search for Shaw with it.
But as we all know, the plot doesn’t really matter here. The question is what kind of crazy action set pieces must be executed in order to keep moving forward? And crazy is the operative word, along with extravagant and fun… for the most part. They uniformly go on a little too long, but the teamwork showcased is a bit astounding to witness. Everyone has a role that best suits them, all to the best of their abilities. That has always been the appeal of the series, and if you are going for that, you will see that dynamic at its best.
Statham and Russell are welcome additions to the series, even if they should have been given more to do. Shaw is not a very fun character, or one with any dimension aside from single-minded revenge, but Statham is awesome no matter what he does, so it works. Russell gets to have a bit more fun, and gets a crowd cheering badass moment. Although his presence does come as a result of the hospitalizing Hobbs, which I think is a mistake. Dwayne Johnson is arguably the most charismatic human being on the planet and is the only one who can make the horrifically written dialogue work, so him being sidelined for the majority of the film is a real bummer.
No Johnson means we’re left with Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and the rest of the gang who could not be more boring if they had actively tried. I see the appeal of them as cogs in a machine, but I do not understand the appeal of them as actual people. They are one-note nothings, and spending time with them is a chore when they aren’t driving or shooting. And there is a large amount of them talking about their relationships.
As we all know, Paul Walker untimely died while the film was shooting, and they implemented CGI and his brothers as doubles for the scenes he was unable to film. It is very noticeable. The CG Walker is still in the uncanny valley of animation, and the scenes with his brothers always have his face obstructed or are shot very wide. It could have been much worse, but when it’s not him, it’s very obvious. He does, however, get a touching tribute in the film, keeping very much in tone with the family theme they are so fond of telling us about.
By the seventh movie, you have figured out whether or not the Fast and Furious franchise is for you. If you like it, Furious 7 is as good as you can get execution-wise. The crowd I saw it with certainly ate it up. If the vapid characters, terrible dialogue, choppy editing, and the male gaze that makes Michael Bay seem respectful bothers you, as it does me, you may find some entertainment here, but it is more of the same. One thing I think we can all agree on, though, is Dwayne Johnson walking down the street wielding a Gatling gun is awesome.