Movie Review: ‘FURIOUS 7’ Lives Up To Its High-Octane Legacy

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

FURIOUS 7 | 137 min | PG-13 
Director: James Wan
Writer: Chris Morgan (screenplay), Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda RouseyDjimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell

This originally ran on VeryAware.com

It’s been almost fourteen years since THE FAST & THE FURIOUS began its world domination and audiences became “ride or die” fans. That’s 14 long and wonderful years of crunching cacophonous sounds, car porn and camaraderie. Do you think the voracious cinemagoers of this great nation would ever tire of it? No! You know why? Because, despite what you might have assumed, the filmmakers carefully thought out the trajectory of the franchise well in advance and have stuffed it with so many bombastic stunts and well-structured character arcs that we can’t help but stay riveted. FURIOUS 7 marks somewhat of a culmination of the series, and is a strong addition to the brand’s foundation that services longtime fans and newcomers alike. It’s bold, relentless, and uncompromising, touting visceral edge-of-your-seat thrills and crazy insane amounts of fun.

We last left Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, whose voice gets gravellier with each iteration) and company having shared the triumph of defeating baddie Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), but also the tragedy of losing one of their own, Gisele (Gal Gadot). Since these films are fueled by revenge and homo-erotic machismo, the brakes haven’t been applied to FURIOUS 6’s story. Owen’s bigger, badder brother Deckard (Jason Statham) is out for blood and begins picking off his enemies left and right, maiming Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and killing Han (Sung Kang). Dom is determined to track Shaw down, and gains an unlikely ally in black-ops agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). To find Shaw, they must first rescue hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) from the clutches of terrorist Mose Jacamo fi na ne Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). So Dom gathers our beloved crew of sweet-hearted Brian (Paul Walker), laconic Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), tech-whiz Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and jokester Roman (Tyrese Gibson). Cue the vehicular mayhem, incredibly audacious stunt work and Brian Tyler’s electric guitar-driven score!

Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges in FURIOUS 7. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges in FURIOUS 7. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Director Justin Lin may have loaded the bases in films 3, 4, 5 and 6, but franchise newcomer/ longtime horror vet James Wan drives them all in. Timing and pacing are everything to the success of this series, and Wan innately knows how to conduct this symphony, layering humor and – at times – poignancy into the escalating hijinks. While a handful of the previous films suffer from lulls, FURIOUS 7 does not. Editing for comedic effect plays a crucial role in a few visual gags. Brian’s suburban struggle, Letty’s amnesia and Dom’s love of family are integral parts to this chapter’s engine and they purr. The gasoline is the ensemble’s shtick – something Wan and veteran series screenwriter Chris Morgan wisely play up: Johnson flexes his way out of a cast with pure WWE-inspired gusto. Diesel’s icy stare and beefcake brawn feel menacing. A wonderful dichotomy ensues when Rodriguez girl-fights with Ronda Rousey, both dressed in evening gowns. Tony Jaa, playing a henchman, gets two kick-ass sequences to shine. Plus, Statham’s introduction is a genius villain entrance – as he exits. Best of all, they’ve handled Walker’s unexpected exit gracefully, with great craft and care. It’s difficult not to be moved by the well-executed, underplayed “in memoriam” tribute.

Though FURIOUS 7 does a lot right, it also takes a few steps back. Women are objectified to a much greater level than in previous volumes. It’s shocking given a significant portion of the film takes place in Abu Dhabi, a country not exactly known for women flaunting their tiny, toned bodies in public. How did they skirt the strict laws of this Muslim country? That “Visit Abu Dhabi” credit will tell you all you need to know. Ramsey is objectified time and time again – from when Tej and Roman assess her looks in Azerbaijan to when they drool over her bikini-clad body in Abu Dhabi. It might mean something if this went somewhere, but it never pays off – that story thread is left dangling. I’m not looking to find my feminism here, but I am looking to see it be more egalitarian, as it has been in the past. It’s minor, but Mr. Nobody’s Belgian Ale joke is left abandoned by the side of the road. If they’re using the comedy “rule of threes,” they either forgot one, or it ended up on the cutting room floor. Balance between the two bad guys is a little off and not quite effortlessly interwoven. Finally, most of the hand-to-hand fights devolve into shaky cam, but blessedly never into generic territory. At least there’s still some style and panache there amidst the hyper-sped-up action.

FURIOUS 7 is available on Blu-ray/DVD today.

The Blu-ray includes:

  • Extended Edition
  • Back to the Starting Line: Producer Neal Moritz, Chris Morgan and the cast join franchise newcomer director James Wan as they look back at how far the Franchise has come bring the latest installment to life.
  • Race Wars: FURIOUS 7 brings the crew back to Race Wars, the iconic, fictional racing event from the very first film. Vin Diesel and a couple hundred friends are back for a full-throttle celebration of all things Fast with special guest-star Iggy Azalea, behind-the-scenes footage of the cars, the sweat and the girls.
  • Snatch and Grab: A behind the scenes look at shooting one of the premier action sequences in the franchise’s history.
  • Making of Fast & Furious Supercharged Ride
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Cars of Furious: The car coordinator and his team join the cast and filmmakers for a closer look at the film’s spectacular cars.
  • Flying Cars: People jump out of planes all the time, but not while sitting behind the wheel of a car. This entertaining featurette shows how the Furious 7 team pulled off this jaw-dropping sequence.
  • Tower Jumps: A look at how one of the most exciting stunt sequences of the film, the Abu Dhabi tower jumps, became a reality.
  • Inside the Fight: A combination of fight training footage and interviews takes viewers inside the fierce hand-to-hand fights.
  • Talking Fast: Director James Wan and the cast of Furious 7 break down the movie’s most memorable moments and chat about how the Fast franchise has evolved over the years.
  • “See You Again” Official Music Video Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth

The DVD includes:

  • Back to the Starting Line
  • Race Wars
  • Snatch and Grab
  • Making of Fast & Furious Supercharged Ride

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.