★ ★ ★
Dom, Brian, Letty, Tej, Roman, and Hobbs are back once again. The Fast and the Furious franchise relies on a tried-and-true formula, and Furious 7 will delight its fans with almost two and a half hours of pulse-pounding action, death-defying stunts, and schmaltzy one-liners. Since debuting in 2001 with a cast full of then relatively unknown actors, the series has steadily grown into an international sensation and a cash cow for Universal.
Moviegoers are quickly introduced to a newcomer to the saga—albeit one who’s no stranger to the action circuit—as Jason Statham enters the fray as the seemingly indestructible Deckard Shaw. Shaw’s younger brother Owen was defeated and disfigured by Dom and his crew in Fast & Furious 6, and now he’s out for revenge. He’s a highly trained assassin, and will remind viewers more of the Terminator than anything flesh and blood. As he begins to hunt down the Furious gang one by one, Dom (Vin Diesel) receives a proposal from a mysterious government agent known as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). Mr. Nobody offers the gang a chance to bring the fight to Shaw, but only if they retrieve a highly advanced piece of espionage technology, as well as rescue the hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) who knows how to use it. What ensues is an over-the-top international manhunt full of cars being dropped from airplanes, gunfights, terrorists, and eye-popping chases. While the plot is far-fetched, to say the least, the action is the real draw. The story could have been written by an 11-year-old and the theaters would still be packed.
It’s a franchise of winking ridiculousness, in which the characters take themselves far too seriously while giving you hints that they are in on the gag. Near the climax of the film, Dwayne Johnson’s ultra-masculine character Hobbs is stalking through the streets of Los Angeles with a six-barreled machine gun, trying to shoot down a helicopter, while a drone armed with missiles hunts the Furious gang in their trademark muscle cars. When Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) asks if he has brought reinforcements to the fight, Hobbs barks, “Woman, I AM the cavalry.” It’s a moment of laugh-out-loud absurdity, and there are plenty of others throughout the wild ride of Furious 7.
It should be noted that the film had to drastically change its tone after the tragic passing of Paul Walker during principal photography. His brothers were brought on as acting doubles, and director James Wan has carefully crafted tasteful CGI representations of the gone-too-soon star. This results in the most emotional moment in the entire series: a final goodbye between on-and-offscreen pals Walker and Diesel. After the rollercoaster ride that is Furious 7, the only emotion left untapped is sorrow, and Wan wades into that one deftly with a stirring tribute to Walker in the film’s last moments. There is much more substance to this movie due to these tragic circumstances, and Wan and screenwriter Chris Morgan were able to use this fact to deliver a moving farewell.
While the tagline for Furious 7 is “One Last Ride,” viewers can probably expect this juggernaut to keep churning out sequels. The cast of mainstays have built a strong rapport with audiences, and the quirky roles played by Diesel, Johnson, Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges will be able to carry things going forward.