Fast & Furious 7: Shrewd, Silly, Joyous Fare

fast_and_furious_7_posterShrewdly manipulative, but very well-directed, “Fast & Furious 7,” the latest (final?) chapter of the hit franchise that began some fifteen years ago, is diverting enough to overcome its silly tale, thematic shortcomings, and one-dimensional characters.

End result is a shamelessly a enjoyable, emotionally hollow flick, which makes no demands on its viewers other than asking them to sit back and enjoy the spectacle of muscled bodies fighting and horned cars racing, and even flying up onto the air.

Assuming that you have never heard of the series (which is impossible), “Furious 7” does the trick of offering several pleasures—superfluous but nonetheless joyous–as a standalone picture as well as a tribute to the likable star Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident in November 2013, when the film was in mid-production.


fast_and_furious_7_11_walkerThough over the past two decades, Hollywood has been dominated by franchises (“Friday the 13th,” “Halloween”), few have reached the magical number of 7 with such energy and audacity.  If only for that, Universal deserves credits for maintaining the momentum of a film series for so long.

A number of crucial decisions have been made, all working in favor of this chapter. First and foremost the hiring of a new, talented director. Justin Lin, who directed four of the “Fast & Furious movies (3 to 6 is replaced by James Wan, who is best known for the “Saw” franchise, as well as “The Conjuring” (artistically, his best picture to date).  An unabashedly commercial filmmaker, Wan has fashioned a nitro-fuelled thrill-ride, which overextends its welcome (running time is two and a half hours), vu contains enough climaxes to keep its viewers’ attention.

fast_and_furious_7_10The action of this gloriously ludicrous installment picks up precisely where that last chapter left off. Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), is comatose in hospital, and his older brother, Deckard (well cast Jason Statham) is out and about in its relentlessly obsessive revenge-seeking.

After tussling with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) at his DSS offices in Los Angeles, Deckard heads to Tokyo to kill Han (Sung Kang). The goal serves the purpose of returning the franchise to a present that leads off from the third chapter, “Tokyo Drift” (you may recall that the previous parts were essentially flashbacks.)

fast_and_furious_7_9Deckard threatens that Dom (Diesel) and his appealing “family” (Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris) will be picked off, one by one, unless they agree to work for the shadowy government agent Petty (Kurt Russell) to retrieve computer genius Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) from the evil clutches of the terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).  The reason (should you care) is her creation of an ingenious tracking device.

Globe-trotting, the story takes the members to Tokyo, the Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi and L.A. while The Stath turns up repeatedly–often out of nowhere.

fast_and_furious_7_8_bridges_gibsonBy now viewers not only expect but actually demand that each movie in the Furious franchise be faster and more furious than the one before.  Thus, not surprisingly, the saga builds to Diesel and Statham confronting each other ferociously with giant car wrenches.

Among other sights, the relentless spectacle offers a car leaping between skyscrapers.  You can also watch Walker running along the top of a bus as it teeters off a cliff and a night-time chase and conflagration in L.A. that involves a chopper, a drone, multiple automobiles and Statham surviving a multi-storey car park landing on top of him.

fast_and_furious_7_4_walker_bridges_gibson_rodriguezAs noted, after Walker’s death, the shoot was completed with body doubles, courtesy of the actor’s own brothers, Caleb and Cody, and quite a sophisticated and subtle digital trickery.  It’s impossible to watch this picture without fondly recalling Walker’s all-American physical presence and generous spirit, which haunt the movie, turning it into a beautifully cherished farewell.










“For Paul” reads the film’s dedication, and so this fast, furious, and a bit crazed chapter wears its heart on its sleeve, giving an extra-added emotional meaning to the many and various statements that the character of Dom (and star Viesel who plays him) makes throughout the saga about family values, loyalty, commitment–and now memory.

A longer review will be published later today.