Arts, Movies

‘Furious 7’ Is What It Is (Massive Action Setpiece) And That’s Good Enough

Suspension of disbelief has grown synonymous with the summer blockbuster, but Furious 7 takes this expectation of viewers to a whole new level—and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Fast 5 shifted the entire series from gritty street-racing popcorn flicks to spy thriller with cars and low gravity popcorn flicks, and with pretty unanimous acclaim. Fast 5 and Fast and Furious 6 embraced their outrageous action set pieces. Furious 7 continues the trend, forming the conclusion to a pseudo sub-trilogy within the franchise.

The general plot could be described as Die Hard 2, with a less compelling villain and a lot more cars. Furious 7 picks up where Fast and Furious 6 left off. Owen Shaw, played by Jason Statham, finds out his brother is bedridden and crippled due to the Torretto Gang. Infuriated, Shaw seeks revenge against their leader, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). The concept seems simple and fu—-Statham vs. Vin Diesel with cars—but those moments are far and few between. In fact, the entire middle act of this movie feels straight out of a ’90s action flick, filled with the cheesy one-liners that Schwarzenegger once delivered with glee.

That being said, if you don’t focus too much on the plot (and plot holes, for that matter), there is a lot to like about Furious 7. As they are now on the seventh film in the franchise, all of the actors have mastered their roles. And although this is director James Wan’s first entry into the series, he had plenty of material and style to carry over from the previous entries.

One of the best things about the film was that Wan knew exactly what the film was–a popcorn flick. There are some absolutely absurd action set pieces in the film, but rather than trying to make them feel overly gritty or realistic, Wan takes the opportunity to build some truly beautiful scenes. And that is the ultimate realization of what this franchise is about–jaw dropping action scenes. Although some audience members might exclaim,“this is so unrealistic,” the childish whimsy and adrenaline rush far outweigh that thought.

The only thing this film seems to be strongly lacking in (other than a strong plot), is Dwayne Johnson. The conclusion to Fast and Furious 6 seemed to promise a growing bromance between Johnson and Vin Diesel. Johnson steals every scene he’s in, which unfortunately isn’t often.

Speaking of an underutilized cast, Statham’s character was completely one dimensional. He’s just a bad guy who shouldn’t be messed with. Statham only feels like a threat to the protagonists when he is on screen. The subplot within the second act of the film ignores Statham’s character effectively making the viewer forget about him, until “oh no, here comes Shaw again.” This lack of a threat really dissipates most the tension in the film, except those in which Paul Walker appears.

Now for the elephant in the room. With a few weeks left of production Paul Walker, who plays Toretto’s right hand man Brian O’Connor, passed away in a single-car accident. This led to a script rewrite and required Walker’s brothers to stand in for a few scenes in order for the film to be completed. That being said, incredible CGI, the use of careful camera angles, and the usage of old footage made it nearly impossible to tell the difference from scenes Walker may or may not have actually appeared in. In a franchise where nearly every character seems superhuman, Walker’s death inadvertently gives the film real tension. It’s hard not to be on the edge of my seat every time Walker was in an action sequence thinking, is this it?

Around a week before the film’s release, Vin Diesel stated “It [Furious 7] will probably win best picture at the Oscars”. In many ways, Furious 7 is almost a perfect mindless summer blockbuster. It has great action, great visuals, and great performances and the plot is good enough, though not quite up to the standards to the franchise’s previous two installments. Needless to say, for a mindless summer blockbuster, this film was highly entertaining and it gets extremely emotional when Walker’s send off does occur. This may not be the best film in the franchise, but it’s still extremely fun, and a fitting goodbye to Paul Walker.

Featured Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

April 12, 2015