We gave it a B
We have officially entered the baroque stage of the Fast & Furious franchise. It’s no longer enough that the films’ fleet of tricked-out, turbo-boosted muscle cars drive really, really fast. Now they also have to fly. In the numbingly bonkers Furious 7, cars parachute out of cargo planes, jump from one skyscraper to another, and sail through the air to intercept helicopters. At this rate, the next chapter will have to take place in outer space. Fast & Furious: Venusian Drift.
So how’s the movie? Well, it’s both awesome and ridiculous. The acting is mostly lame, the dialogue is entirely laughable, and the story makes absolutely no sense. Picking up where its (better) 2013 predecessor left off, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and their diverse gang of gearheads reassemble when Jason Statham, playing the brother of the previous film’s villain (Luke Evans), goes on a bender of payback. Since this was already the premise of Die Hard 3, director James Wan and writer Chris Morgan pile on a mess of pointless subplots and secondary bad guys like Djimon Hounsou’s high-tech terrorist and his martial-arts henchman (Tony Jaa). But the kernel is this: In order to hunt down Statham’s Deckard Shaw before they can be hunted, the crew agree to help a shadowy government agent (a winking Kurt Russell) retrieve a surveillance gizmo that will make Shaw easier to find. Here’s the thing, though—he isn’t hard to find at all. In fact, he keeps popping up wherever they go (Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi, Los Angeles). So why they need Russell or his gizmo is anybody’s guess.
And yet none of that matters. No one forks over 10 bucks to see one of these flicks for its logic. We go for the bananas demolition-derby mayhem. Furious 7 delivers that with the direct visceral rush of an EpiPen. For two hours and change, we’re treated to a high-octane orgy of some of the most exhilarating stunts ever put on film, including one showstopper where Walker balances on an overturned bus that’s teetering on the edge of a cliff. If the masterminds behind this series were honest with themselves—and the audience—they’d eighty-six the idea of making another feature-length sequel with all of its soap opera hooey about Michelle Rodriguez’s amnesia and crank out a 30-minute, stunts-only supercut of just the good stuff. It would solve a lot of problems for folks who get hung up on old-fashioned notions like narrative coherence…and it would make a billion dollars.
Furious 7 is, of course, dedicated to the memory of Walker, who died before filming was completed. The biggest surprise in the movie is how poignantly and tastefully it pays tribute to the star, who, by all accounts, was as devoted a family man off screen as he was on it. In the final scene, the actor looks directly into the camera and flashes his thousand-watt smile from behind the wheel. It’s a rare moment of subtlety in a franchise that otherwise has no use for it. And it’s as cathartic as any car flying through the air could ever be. B