James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
Cole Clay // Film Critic
FURIOUS 7 | 137 min | Rated PG-13
Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell
After six fits of pure adrenaline, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise keeps evolving unlike any series in film history. In 2001, the franchises’ eponymously titled first film catered to street racing culture without diving into anything other than scantily clad women, or the late Paul Walker’s bleach blonde hair. Followed by three sequels that were met with lukewarm reactions by yours truly (other than the underrated TOKYO DRIFT). The problem was the films were repetitive and offered nothing new to the series.
It wasn’t until FAST FIVE and SIX that director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan injected the dwindling franchise with an OCEAN’S 11 meets 007 motif. The films made a dozen Ferraris worth of dough and everybody was happy. Now, with horror director James Wan at the helm, FURIOUS 7 has found the proper transmission to provide what viewers will expect: little brains and a ton of brawn (and for the first time in a long time, that’s perfectly fine).
This film has a somber tone that’s hard to ignore in wake of Walker’s tragic 2013 death. The characters in the crew deal with the death and find themselves brooding in graveyards saying “this is the last funeral.” All the while, the audience knows what is to come for the beloved Walker. Even through all the over-the-top set pieces and quippy lines of dialogue, Walker’s presence (or lack there of) is impossible to ignore.
Picking up right where FAST & FURIOUS 6 left off, the enraged, English badass Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) has decided to take revenge on the crew for the death of his brother. After a brutal throw-down with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the stealthy baddie grabs the attention of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) once he realizes Shaw was responsible for the bombing on Brian O’ Conner’s (Walker) home. This brings the crew (Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Michelle Rodriguez) back together for another globe-spanning adventure with the help of a mysterious government agent named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).
Put your brain in neutral and sit back and marvel in all the mayhem that renders the work of Michael Bay completely obsolete. The outrageous action, gravity defying car chases and weepy melodrama keep the wheels from burning out.
Following the death of Walker, the film’s release was delayed and the narrative had to pivot. This provided an unexpected dramatic core that helped FURIOUS 7 define Torreto’s favorite word “family” more articulately than ever before. Wan plays with reality by putting Walker in increasingly more perilous situations that work not only on a filmic level but in a manner that pays homage to his memory.
Although a line of dialogue states that “cars can’t fly,” FURIOUS 7 defies all odds with clever set pieces that have $3 million dollar cars hurling through Abu Dhabi skyscrapers and a rough trek through the mountains of Azerbaijan. It’s this potent brand of storytelling that keep audiences coming back and have helped the films grow their box-office to a $2.3 billion franchise tally. It’s the action beats that allow FURIOUS 7 amnesty against several plot-holes that plague the films of this genre.
The film’s poster says “One Last Ride,” but rumor has it that an eight film is in the works. It will be interesting to see how that pans out with the absence of Walker in the cast, especially after the tearful send off the departed actor receives in the closing minutes.
Another pun about cars would fit the bill here, but go see this movie if nothing else, for the ten glorious seconds the camera focuses on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as he literally flexes his broken arm out of a cast. It’s glorious– simply glorious.
FURIOUS 7 opens today.