Despite being a huge action movie fan certain movies fly below my radar. Whether it’s willful ignorance (the last few Statham films) or just missing never getting around to seeing it there are tons of movies I just seem to miss. Until recently the Fast & Furious was on this list. While I’ve seen the first two (for the most part) via USA having nothing else to air. After that a friend recommended Tokyo Drift and it was fine. Had ridiculous races but nothing too special. Saw the 4th movie with the Rifftrax track and had to tap out. Ironically enough that’s where it started to get good. Considering the records the Furious 7 broke and the reviews it was getting I decided to bite the bullet and catch up on the series. As it turns out people were right, Fast 5 and 6 were pretty fun. So with those out of the way I went into Furious 7 hoping for the best.
Having taken down Owen Shaw in the last film Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and the rest of the crew return to the United States. Everything seems to be getting back to normal when crew member Han is killed by Deckerd Shaw (Jason Statham). Offered the chance to confront Deckard by the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) Dom assembles his crew one last time.
I figure I’ll address the elephant in the room, Paul Walker’s scenes. Passing away halfway through filming it was a huge task to overcome given how integral he was to the series. For the most part I think they got around this fairly well. It seems like most of the plot intensive scenes were taken care of beforehand and with them needing to film around action scenes at the end of the movie. With some stylish editing and CGI they were able to work around things pretty well. The only time it was noticeable was during a fight with Tony Jaa at the end. I assume it would be handled with a lot of stuntmen anyway but it was pretty obvious when this was filmed. Besides that and an obviously superimposed bit at the very end I think it worked out.
As for the rest of the movie, it was what I have come to expect from the series. The plot is fine if absolutely insane. The fact that we went from street racing to international espionage is insane if you think about it too much. That said I absolutely loved some of the more fan service bits. I mean we get references to the series black sheep; Tokyo Drift. I know it’s because I love continuity but I can’t believe I marked out for a reference to a bad movie. Of course nobody goes into a Fast & Furious movie looking for plot. You go in for insane action scenes and that’s where this movie really delivers. Mostly car based these are the most insane, intricate stunts yet. I don’t even mind the use of some obvious green screen. What didn’t work out so well were the hand to hand fights. When you have guys who can set up fights (or matches in some cases) like Tony Jaa and The Rock expectations are pretty high. I mean Tony Jaa is one of the most fun, inventive action stars of the past decade and we go with Jake Imada. He’s a decent fight choreographer (the Rousey vs Rodriguez fight is pretty fun) but when you have a guy like Jaa on set it’s a disappointment. And I realize a wrestling match isn’t the same as a movie fight but he has pretty good psychology when it comes to fake fights and none of that was seen here.
It doesn’t help when action isn’t director James Wan’s forte. Known for horror movies like Saw and Insidious he isn’t as good when it comes to the action needed for a movie like this. The problem, and it’s a big problem, is that the action is way over stylized. This is a problem for hand-to-hand fighting specifically. Things are so kinetic and choppy at times that it can be hard to see everything that it is happening. It’s a shame too because the idea of Statham taking on The Rock and Vin Diesel is an action fan’s dream. The other problem, as expected, is the acting. Given none of the actors are Daniel Da y-Lewis seeing Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in the more dramatic scenes is cringe worthy at times. Then there’s Ronda Rousey. It’s a glorified cameo and she only has a few lines but dear god is she bad. Luckily she’s a good ass kicker because she can’t act to save her life. Last, but not least, is how incomplete the film feels at times. Surprisingly this isn’t due to the limited involvement of Walker either. Hobbs (The Rock) is brought in early on and just vanishes for the majority of the movie. He doesn’t appear until the end when you realize oh yeah, he’s a part of the movie. There’s also a lack of Jordana Brewster as Mia. While not the biggest star of the series she has been pretty integral and it’s a shame to see her do so little in what may be her last movie in the franchise.
Furious 7 had a difficult production and it shows. Between a new director and the passing of a lead actor the movie isn’t perfect. Wan’s direction wasn’t ideal for the franchise and the story feels a bit too disjointed ala Expendables for my liking. With that said the movie obviously wasn’t meant to be a perfect action movie, at least not anymore. It was more a tribute to the Paul Walker and his time with the series. In that regard they did a pretty good job with high octane action. Where they go from here only time will tell. Hopefully they get rid of the unfortunately named Race Wars racing scene though.