Directed by: James Wan
Premise: The seventh film in the Fast and the Furious series. A freelance assassin (Jason Statham) comes after Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family. In an effort to thwart the killer, Torretto and his gang collaborate with a government intelligence agency.
What Works: Ever since 2011’s Fast Five, the Fast and the Furious series has put some distance between the street racing movies that the series originated with and it has pivoted toward heists, international intrigue, and shoot-’em-up action sequences. That change has been to the benefit of the series, shaking up the formula and making it far more enjoyable. As the series has proceeded, the Fast and the Furious movies have included increasingly outlandish action set pieces, with the last film featuring chases involving tanks and jet aircraft. That creates a problem for the seventh installment – where can they go from there? – but director James Wan is able to supplant bigness of scale with ferocity and speed. Wan is best known for directing horror pictures such as the original Saw and The Conjuring. With Furious 7 Wan demonstrates a capacity for action but as crazy as the set pieces are—such as cars parachuting out of an airplane and landing on a thin strip of road—he’s able to find ways of making it credible within the context of the movie. Of course it’s all implausible and the story jumps frantically across the globe but the joy of the Fast and the Furious series is much like that of the classic James Bond films and the moviemakers deliver exactly what the audience expects. Furious 7 also includes some nods to the earlier installments, restoring some of the underground racing culture that made the first film so popular. Unlike other installments, Furious 7 has an external problem hanging over it. Actor Paul Walker, who co-headlines these movies with Vin Diesel, was killed in a car crash mid-production. Given the circumstances, the filmmakers have done a decent job sending off the character while not exploiting Walker’s death.
What Doesn’t: Tent pole action films are getting longer and longer. Recent examples include The Avengers (143 minutes), The Dark Knight Rises (165 minutes), The Lone Ranger (149 minutes) and Transformers: Age of Extinction (165 minutes). Longer has not necessarily meant better and a lot of these films don’t have the kind of story that warrants the extended running time. This is especially true of Furious 7. The movie clocks in at just under two hours and twenty minutes and there is no reason for the movie to be that long. The film frequently feels overwrought. However, unlike the Transformers movies or even The Avengers, it isn’t the action scenes that bog the movie down. Instead, Furious 7 suffers most in its dramatic sequences. The appeal of the Fast and the Furious series has cut evenly between the action and the characters; the sense of camaraderie and family among the mainstay cast has given this series a continuity and humanity missing from a lot of other action pictures. The problem is that this series has not done anything substantive with its characters. The Fast and the Furious franchise has been ongoing since 2001 with a new movie released every two to three years since then. But in all that time the main characters have changed very little and the dramatic scenes of Furious 7 suffer for it. In between heists and street races, Dominic soliloquizes about the importance of family and loyalty but it’s just covering the same old ground. By the seventh installment in this series the filmmakers ought to have done something more interesting with their characters than what they’ve done here. The story does reach a satisfying end for Paul Walker’s character but there is very little about the resolution to this film that is any different from previous installments of the series.
Bottom Line: Furious 7 is not quite as satisfying as some of the other entries in this series but it does gives the fans the thrills they are looking for. The film is mostly more of the same but the Fast and the Furious series was never meant to be anything but entertaining and Furious 7 certainly succeeds at that.
Episode: #537 (April 12, 2015)