James Wan’s Furious 7 is an example of how less could be more, just not in this film. EVERYTHING is done too excess and that is not entirely a bad thing, but, even for Furious 7 it’s stretching it. With the passing of Paul Walker before Furious 7 was completed (although, Walker had completed 80% of his scenes before his passing), his character, Brian O’Connor, is written off with grace and class. That is at the end of the film. We first have a front row seat to some of the most unbelievable mayhem I have ever seen. Most of it works.
This time around Jason Statham is Deckard Shaw, the brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) from Furious 6, who is now in a coma in an British Hospital. Deckard has vowed revenge and to ‘finish what you started, little brother’. Deckard is former British SAS and one tough cookie. As he begins to target the gang, one by one. They of course, re-assemble to bring Deckard down. The film does a good job with these characters we have become attached to over the past six films and we even get a scene with Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) from ‘Toyko Drift’ (a film that was probably the weakest of the franchise, but one I enjoyed as more of guilty pleasure and I have always been a big Lucas Black fan). We also are introduced to the shady, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). A Black Ops leader who has traded in his uniform for a Armani suit, but still can tangle with the best of them. Russell is refreshingly enjoyable as Mr. Nobody and he does a good job of playing is character’s intentions close to the vest, so to speak. We WANT to trust him, but we are not so sure we can. Toretto (Vin Diesel) is suspicious of Mr. Nobody, too but his desire to get Deckard makes partnership of Nobody and Toretto necessary.
What follows is some of the most extravagant vehicular havoc I have seen, with the exception of the superior Mad Max: Fury Road. Just about every car and every structure you see in Furious 7 is utterly demolished to a pile of rubble. There is one impressive sequence that shows the good guys dropping their cars out of a cargo plane to intercept a bus with a hacker that has been taken hostage. She is the inventor of ‘God’s Eye’; a program that allows anyone to listen in on any device that has a microphone and/or camera. It will give a person’s location anywhere in the world. The gang needs it to find Deckard.
Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is in the hospital with injuries suffered from Deckard’s first fight with Hobbs, Han is gone, as is Gisele. Mia is hidden away with her child and pregnant with number two, but she is unwilling to tell Brian, just yet. She fears that married life might not be for him, an adrenaline junkie. “What do you miss, Bri?” Toretto asks. “The bullets” Brian answers. But after a while, Brian starts to change his mind, thus setting the viewers up for the poignantly touching sendoff of Paul Walker. Everything has been carefully choreographed from the fist to fist fights, to the shootouts to the car chases, one involving the Triple Towers in Dubai. It is all exciting but far over the top even for this franchise. It is nice to look at but, you can’t take it all so seriously. But therein, lies a problem. For us to believe even half of the stuff, there has to be some basis in reality. The previous films went to this well once or twice in extended sequences in the previous films. Furious 7 has every scene pushing it to the limit. Most of it does work, but after a while it will wear the viewer down. Especially, the final fight sequence between Toretto and Deckard. The beat each other with industrial size wrenches used for working on big tractor trailor rigs and the like. Most people would have been spitting up teeth with one slam of these things across the kisser. These two hit each other in the face and all about the body with little blood or effect. Toretto and Deckard are big and tough but not THAT big and tough. Actually, no one is. It is fun but hard to take seriously. A few scenes like this are one thing. A whole film of this kind of nonsense wears thin.
Still director, Wan knows what makes these films work and he is becoming a master at creating chaos. The film is high energy, the acting sells the story and Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson’s script keeps the humor light and clever. Wan and the cast does their best to entertain and it works, as well as Brian Tyler’s score which balances electronics and orchestral elements to enhance the action. Furious 7 has run the gambit on wowing us with astronomical feats of daring and I don’t see where they can take us, that we have not already been. But fortunately, they have over a year or so to figure it out. That is when Furious 8 will be out. It will be a new era for a changing franchise.
Furious 7- ***1/2 out of 5
Furious 7- Rated PG13 for violence, language and brief partial nudity
Furious 7- Run Time is 141 minutes