At this point, the entire Fast & Furious franchise has become nothing but an exercise in one-upping itself. Starting with Fast Five‘s gravity-defying cliff jump, Justin Lin took to Fast & Furious 6 with every intention to blow his previous film’s scope away in a haze of NOS residue – and he did. Lin’s antics cemented a fresh tone of absurdity for future filmmakers to follow, and first up is James Wan with his entry into the car-chasing, muscle-bulging, explosion-heavy franchise.
So how does Furious 7 stack up against Lin’s turbo-fueled ass-kickers? Let’s just say Wan makes a damn good case as to why he left the horror genre behind for a bit, silencing any doubters who thought his transition to be foolish. The boys and girls are back, and you’ll be glad that you are, too.
In Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) latest adventure, the brother of the crew’s previous nemesis, Shaw (Luke Evans), starts hunting those who left his family weak and crippled. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is a man not to be angered, and he proves that to Dom by killing Han (Sung Kang) and expressing his interest in knocking off “the team” one by one. With everyone’s lives in jeopardy, Brian (Paul Walker) sends Mia (Jordana Brewster) and his baby into hiding while the crew tools up, waiting for a fight. Calling on some old friends and new acquaintances, Dom’s crew looks to bury the past and usher in a bright, safe future – but until Deckard Shaw is defeated, those wishes are nothing but a fantasy.
Furious 7 is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that’s a double-barrelled blast of excitement, loaded with a whole handful of audacious sequences that challenge any previous attempt to blow audience’s minds. As if shooting a plane down wasn’t good enough for Dom’s crew, now they’re parachuting out of cargo bays, still seated in their many flashy cars.
Screenwriter Chris Morgan’s imagination runs buck-wild once again, as characters survive dizzying tumbles down jagged rock cliffs and jump off plummeting RVs seconds before death’s grasp takes hold. At this point, Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner are nothing but invincible cartoon characters, but their most recent exploits combine even more mechanical wizardry and bone-crunching punishment in ways that are too indulgently entertaining to capture in words.
One thing about Furious 7 is that the story feels a bit slight – like the film is built on nothing but goofy one-liners, rubber-burning chase sequences, and wall-smashing fight pieces that would be a nightmare for any contractor. Morgan’s previous scripts placed more of an emphasis on the plan that was pulling Dom’s team together, but this time around, it feels less consequential.
Nathalie Emmanuel is introduced as a hacker who invents some all-seeing location tracker called God’s Eye, which a government agent dubbed Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) promises full use of if it’s stolen back from a group of thieves led by Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). Get the God’s Eye, locate Shaw, and finish him off. Sounds like a plan, except why go through the trouble of getting God’s Eye when you can just wait for Shaw to come knocking? The upper hand, yes, but still. There’s some logic that doesn’t quite connect, and plot holes are typically answered by Dwayne Johnson doing something badass like flexing his way out of a cast or crashing an ambulance into a hovering arial vehicle. Eh, when in Rome, right?
Seeing Wan’s vision heighten something beside a horror film makes my heart flutter, especially when adapting to the franchise’s go-for-broke mentality. Morgan is the man scripting the action, but Wan’s fearless ambition makes for some memorable furiousness that will leave excited fans howling for more. Ever seen cars jump from skyscraper to skyscraper, set against the beautiful Abu Dhabi landscape? Wan and his cinematography team (Stephen F. Windon/Marc Spicer) find the most colorful, lavish, and downright ill locations for Dom’s team to destroy in some way. Especially when recalling the vibrant sandy landscapes, bursting with orange coloring, it’s hard not to be engrossed by such technically mesmerizing stuff.
Most of the chase sequences here are like poetry in motion, as you’ll find more cars than a Middle Eastern prince would own weaving and zipping around dangerous terrain that begs for a fiery automotive death, and the human action pieces are just as big a choreography challenge. Wan captures it all though, keeping the camera fastened tightly to its subject. If The Rock tumbles over a couch, the camera stays tight and goes for the same circular ride. The frenzy of war mixes with clear, crisp shots that proudly showcase the tremendous attention to dream-like detail (beyond car detailing, even), which ensures the action is both pleasing and intensified.
Plus: Wan doesn’t skimp on all the race-fan sex appeal and crunkified party atmospheres that audiences love embracing. It might feel like a super-long MTV Spring Break special at points thanks to so many egregious shots of hot women (in bikinis/painted god/waving flags/swimming), but the characters’ interactions during these more jubilant scenes is what makes the franchise so charming.
When it comes down to it, Furious 7 is an adrenaline-pumping action event that gets by on cheeky “wit” peppered in between explosions, crashes, and badass female bodyguards (including Ronda Rousey). Even though some of the zingers are unforgivably cheesy (something about making Shaw’s mother wish she’d kept her legs closed), Wan’s latest effort is the perfect party movie. Morgan’s structure is on autopilot (Dom’s team has an objective, Shaw appears out of nowhere, chaos ensues), but I could watch ten more hours of The Rock walking around city streets with a gatling gun like an Under-Armour-wearing action figure, mowing down anything in sight.
Statham rocks the British ex-militant vibe to perfection, Tyrese Gibson oozes his typical jokester persona, Michelle Rodriguez throws down like the ass-kicking chica she is, Russell is like a lovable 80s action cliche – and that’s still not even the entire cast.
There’s no denying that James Wan has created one of the most entertaining films that I’ve seen in a long time with Furious 7, and if you’ve been a fan of the franchise up to this point, or even if you’re a newcomer, sit down, strap in, and get ready to be blown away by Team Toretto one more time.