Rev up your engines, it’s time for the seventh (yes SEVENTH) installment in the Fast and Furious franchise. As they’re running out of ways to play with the words, this one’s titled Furious 7. Sounds a bit like an upgraded version of the Fox Force Five team referenced in Pulp Fiction but I can dig it.
For franchise aficionados, you’re likely aware of the two most significant elements about this installment: 1) It establishes where the third film (Tokyo Drift) fits into the timeline and 2) It is the last we’ll likely see of Paul Walker in the crew.
As it’s the most talked about component of the film, I’ll start with Paul Walker. Following the news of his passing, Vin Diesel and the filmmakers decided to press on with the movie as it as basically originally intended. Walker had filmed a number of scenes, and clever editing and technology utilized his brother as a double and pasted his face where it was needed (thankfully this technology has gotten better since Blue Crush).
If you’re really looking for which scenes involving his character were shot for real or are being manipulated, you will be able to spot the switch. However, aside from some glaringly obvious shots in the final minutes, I give director James Wan, the editors, and the VFX wizards credit for keeping the distraction to a minimum.
And as for the film’s final scenes, it’s largely a cinematic farewell for Walker and basically plays out like a memoriam. It’s easily the most sincere section of the movie and you can clearly feel the genuine emotion on display from the other actors as they say goodbye to their friend on screen. The fourth wall is quite noticeably broken here but it’s all handled quite tastefully. And with for all the grief I may have given Walker over the years for his acting, I’d never heard one bad word about him from colleagues who had the chance to meet or interview him and I applaud the cast and crew for how this was handled.
Back to the movie itself … well … recommending it is sort of irrelevant, isn’t it? This is aimed at a demographic that could care less what I said, even knowing I’m a fan of the series. Of course, what I’d say is that while the fifth and sixth films were turning points for the franchise and genuinely fun, the upward progression sadly comes to an end here.
That’s not to say this isn’t fun, but it’s not as good as the last film and may only be slightly more interesting than the fifth because of the sendoff for Walker and the inclusion of Tony Jaa (who is severely underutilized and underrated in Western cinema). There are some very good action scenes and some very satisfying fights to be had but with a run time of 2 hours and 17 minutes, the notion that this film needed to grow a heart and a brain created some very obvious pacing problems. Also, just as an aside, if you’re playing the drinking game, all you need to do is listen for the keywords of “love” and “family”. Oh, and make sure to have Uber on speed dial.
So if you need a mindless bit of escapism, filled with expensive cars, exaggerated physics, beautiful women, jacked up dudes, explosions, fistfights, guns, questionable damage thresholds of the human body, and the odd inclusion of Kurt Russell, then by all means go out and see Furious 7. If you’re waffling on going to theaters or waiting for the home market, I can advise that you really won’t miss much by waiting but depending on where you are in the country, some free air conditioning may be a good tipping point. Your call.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language
Release date: April 3, 2015