Fast & Furious 7 (12a)
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Kurt Russell & Dwayne Johnson
Running time: 137 min
Cast your mind back to the end of Fast And Furious 6… when Jason Statham walked onto the screen, and you were all sitting on your sugar high, giddy at the prospect of a movie even bigger than the one you’d just seen. Remember that? And remember how you were shocked at how a franchise about fast cars, silly characters and girls in bikinis had become pretty much action movie essentials? Well, try to calm down a little.
The road to Furious 7 was a choppy one. The death of Paul Walker, rest in peace, was a devastating blow to all involved and it seemed for a while that this movie was never even going to happen and that was sad, for both reasons.
Thankfully, the cast, crew and director mourned the loss of their brother and decided to finish the movie with the help of Walker’s real-life brothers, old footage from the other movies and some cutting edge CGI.
The good news? Furious 7 is a hell of a lot of fun and, given the circumstances, a near-miracle.
The bad? Well, it truly suffers due to the rough journey it had and is not as good as you giddily dreamed at the end of the sixth movie.
Ok, the story. The bad guy in FF6 Owen Shaw, played by Luke Evans, has an older, badder brother called Deckard – be still my inner Blade Runner fan – played by FTN favourite Jason Statham. He wants the team that put an end to his brother’s shenanigans in the last movie and so he’s hunting Torreto and his crew. The perfect, simple set up.
The first big problem is that the movie clearly misses previous director Justin Lin, the man who brought the franchise from second-rate nonsense to an action series that not only delivers on that front, but also had characters we came to care for and a hell of a lot of heart. That’s not to say that James Wan does a terrible job, he just doesn’t do as good a job – but in fairness, personally, I feel that Lin is one of Hollywood’s best action directors and deserves to be taken seriously (I can’t wait to see what he does with Star Trek 3 as he excels at action and character in equal measure).
The set up for the movie is handled poorly at the start; Statham’s intro should be fun but is so poorly handled and covered in poor cgi that it feels out of place and the movie seems to be struggling from the get-go. As a big fan of the franchise, I was worried. And, to be fair, it keeps struggling for the whole first act, with the set-up bouncing between characters, locations and events so fast that nothing feels like it’s given a chance to breathe and everything feels – even for a movie like this – contrived. Thankfully, it does settle down.
And when it finds its feet, while it does snap at the heels of Lin’s far superior fifth and sixth instalments, it is a very solid, competent action movie. But it does suffer.
And one of the main reasons it suffers is because Wan just doesn’t seem to know how to handle all the characters this time out with Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs, Michelle Rodriquez’s Letty and especially Jason Statham’s Deckard all criminally underused and it’s all very evident that a lot of scenes were rewritten for Paul Walker’s tragic absence, with scenes set up, clumsily in parts, to give Brian his inevitable send-off. Necessary? Yes, of course, but one can’t deny the movie suffers for it.
However, that’s the bad. Now for the good.
Firstly, the action scenes are superb, from the parachuting cars, to the car jumping between buildings, to the stealth helicopter and drone flying through LA (yes, really) everything is handled well by Wan and, once raised in the second act, your pulse will rarely drop – although the final act does drag on a little too far.
Secondly, Kurt Russell is superb in it. Clearly having fun with his shadowy government role, Russell chews the scenery in ways he rarely has since he drove The Pork Chop Express and he’s certainly the best addition to the franchise – we can only hope that the next movie delivers on Vin Diesel’s recent promise that he’ll be a much bigger part of the next movie.
It also has to be said that, although slightly underwritten here, all the characters – especially Tyrese Gibson’s Roman – have a lot of fun in their roles, even if the chemistry and interactions don’t feel as genuine… but we can only assume this is due to the tragedy that befell them when they lost their friend during filming. Completing the movie cannot have been easy for any of them, emotionally or professionally, and, despite my criticisms, I do commend them on the job they did.
And what of Paul Walker’s Brian? Well, he is given a smart, respectful and emotional send off here. I saw grown men leaving the cinema moist-eyed and it’s entirely justified.
So, in conclusion, while Fast & Furious 7 shines in many ways, it also suffers too. Nowhere near as good as Lin’s last two entries, it’s hard to criticise it too much – the fact that it is as fun and entertaining as it is is a credit to all involved. And it is fun; I was smiling nearly the whole way through, although I really felt that there was much more to it at the start and, in the end, it’s a loving letter to Walker but you’re left with the feeling that they were trying to get it finished as best as possible so they can get to the next movie. And, like the last few instalments, you’re left with no doubt there’s more story to be told.
But, overall, it’s big, bold, silly, fun and has a lot of heart. And I’m pretty sure Paul wouldn’t have asked for more. One last ride, indeed…
3 out of 5 Nerds