By Casey Campbell
I recently got around to seeing the latest iteration in the surprisingly and unnecessarily long running Fast and Furious franchise, and it is not a very good movie at all. What was once a decently fun, car-centric action series has turned into several too many movies featuring dizzying set pieces and truly idiotic characters in a wholly unbelievable world. If you are one of those people who say, “Oh, just turn off your brain and enjoy the movie,” then please stop reading now, as this may disarm you with logic.
So, as a fair viewer and critic, I will begin with giving credit where credit is due. Fresh off the success of two great horror films, James Wan was given the chance to direct Furious 7, after previous director Justin Lin decided to move on with his career. The film is, for the most part, well shot. When the camera doesn’t linger on the barely clothed behind’s of women in every city the characters enter, the shots are usually decently framed. Also, the tangible chemistry built between the two lead actors, the late Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, is clear and works. Overall, the movie looks alright and the two leads seem like they’re, as Diesel’s Dom Toretto loves to say, “family.”
Now, the rest of the film really falls apart with the fight scenes, which sadly fill about ¾ of the movie. During a fight scene, it is essential that the audience feel at least a slight amount of threat and danger when the hero finds strife with a villain. In this movie, one filled with basic superhumans who can survive driving down a mountain and being constantly shot at, a scene in which two characters have a hastily edited, and poorly choreographed fist fight means nothing. Indonesian action film The Raid features fight scenes that have you white-knuckled throughout. The characters in that film are human, and every single one is expendable, leading to always tense and exciting fights. But comparing a genuinely well made film to Furious 7 does nothing for my argument.
It was somewhere between the third and fourth films in this franchise (which has three more movies in the making) that the characters became incapable of death. It must have been around that time that these characters also lost all common sense and logic. Brian O’Conner (Walker) has a wife and child at the start of Furious 7. With a new kid on the way, O’Conner’s pregnant wife does what any sane person would do: hides the fact that she’s pregnant so that he goes out on an incredibly deadly mission, rather than letting law enforcement handle it (I assume the characters in this universe aren’t aware of their heightened un-killability).
Jason Statham’s character is the reason the team must come back together for another deadly mission, because he was the brother of the last films antagonist, and blows up the O’Conner’s home. Thankfully, luck (as usual) was on the family’s side, as they all found themselves outside at the time of the explosion. But, even though the explosion took place outside as well, they all were okay because they, uh, ducked… or something. Sure, that’s fine. In the scene before, Statham beat the one and only Dwayne Johnson, the largest human ever, in a hand to hand fight, and then sent him flying out of a window from a lethal height, onto an SUV. If you worried whether he had died or not, you clearly are new to the series.
The villain, Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, is one of the most underutilized and underdeveloped characters in the film. Now, I wholeheartedly respect Jason Statham. The man has proven himself in the status of “action badass”, but this is just sad. Logically unsound, yet omniscient in his task to destroy Toretto’s team, he knows where they are at all times. Even when they globe-hop in every other scene, he crashes the party (literally, at one point). His grinning grizzled face is always either driving into an action scene, or cockilly strutting in, holding a machine gun. There are too many times where I, as the viewer, contort my face into a questioning grimace of disbelief.
A film can be outlandish and crazy, and still be great fun. This film sure is outlandish, and it is absolutely crazy, but I truly cannot call this fun. It felt more like a chore to stomach the fantastical, death defying acts portrayed on screen, than it was a fun experience. I also cannot call it a good movie. As the most critically acclaimed of the series, I find myself bewildered. This, the most clichéd and unceasingly dumb movie of the series, made over $1 billion worldwide. The lazy deus ex-machina was used endlessly throughout, whether in the form of Tyrese Gibson jumping his car through a forest to meet back up with the heroes on a terrible mountainous highway chase sequence, or Dwayne Johnson driving an ambulance into a drone. In fact, never have I laughed harder than when seeing The Rock driving an ambulance through an overpass onto a drone, that was flying towards the heroes. The omniscient Rock stole an ambulance and drove it, screaming, to that exact point. The logistics alone are hysterical. Plus, after an explosion, he got up and walked up to a mini-gun and lumbered away, ready to wreak more havoc.
The ending of the film was nothing less than hysterical, in a really bad way. I did not get pulled into the emotional heft that is the ‘Letty bringing Dom back from the dead with the power of love’ scene, and instead laughs at the events that brought these idiots to this point in the “story”, so am I the one that’s in the wrong? Surely $1 billion and critical success means that, right? Well, with two watches under my belt, I left with a drearily bad taste in my mouth, and the unfortunate realization that this was the final film of all around good guy Paul Walker, whose death devastated the film community.
Amateur filmmaking is taking home billions of dollars, and that’s pretty unfortunate, as there are many ideas that actually take chances which go unfunded. I have many more qualms with this travesty of a film, but I don’t think it deserves any more of this writers or the readers time.