Furious 7

Directed By: James Wan

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, Djimon Hounsou, and Jason Statham

With seven movies over fifteen years, the Fast & Furious franchise has certainly had a lengthy run on the big screen.  Still, it doesn't look like this series is riding into the sunset anytime soon.  Unfortunately for all those who loved Dom's family as we know it, we lost one of its core members.  As I'm sure you all know, we lost Paul Walker more than a year ago.  While he didn't complete his final performance as Brian O'Conner, James Wan and Vin Diesel give Walker's signature character one worthwhile last outing.  Regarded as Mr. Bullets throughout the latest film Furious 7, Walker's final performance shines a light on the evolution of this franchise over these past fifteen years.  It's no longer about racing.  The Fast and the Furious has fully transformed itself into an action series.

After the events of Fast & Furious 6, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family have found some semblance of peace back in Los Angeles.  Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still struggling to remember her life before Shaw and to re-establish her relationship with Dom.  He gives her the wise, patient lover she desperately needs at this point in her life.  Meanwhile, Brian O'Conner (Walker) struggles to make the switch from a tricked out ride to a minivan.  According to his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster), it's not the cars that Brian really misses.  It's the bullets.  For their parts, Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris Bridges) are living the good life in L.A. as well.

Despite their good fortune, the Toretto family's luck is about to run out as their adventures in Europe have cost another man his family.  That man is Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).  Ex-Special Forces and a man who operates in the shadows, he's one individual with whom even Toretto shouldn't mess.  In any event, it's too late.  He just happens to be the big bad brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), whom Dom and his crew demolished in Europe.  Firstly, however, Deckard wants information on the crew that took down his brother.  To get this information, he's going to have to go through the law, namely Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).

I never thought I'd write this about a Fast & Furious film, but Furious 7 legitimately carries some emotional heft.  It's natural and admirable for the filmmakers to honor their late brother given Paul Walker's untimely passing.  With a digitized Walker and the continuity of the narrative in jeopardy with plenty of unexpected change in the air, it's safe to say that I had my doubts that they would be able to pull this off.  The truly surprising aspect of it all is that this doesn't drown out the testosterone-fueled fun that has come to typify Dom and Brian's outings.  Director James Wan, his cast, and his crew manage to kick things into gear with all the guns, stunts, and fast cars to which we're all accustomed while paying homage to the friend they lost.

For me, Fast Five was and still is the high point in the franchise.  As entertaining as Furious 7 is, it can't reach the heights of the fifth installment or its predecessor Fast & Furious 6.  The fight choreography is second to none.  The stunts are nothing short of over-the-top.  The film certainly boasts the most menacing villain in the series to date.  Nonetheless, there's something critical missing from Furious 7.  It's in the humor department.  While the Double Alpha Tyrese Gibson brings plenty of laughs throughout the film, James Wan underutilizes Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.  With The Rock out of the picture most of the film, there's comedic gold that Wan just isn't mining here in Furious 7.

I've noted the excellent stunt work on two separate occasions already in this review, but my thoughts on it are not all positive.  With the movement of the Fast & Furious franchise toward more standard action, spectacle has become increasingly integral with each passing sequel.  Consequently, the stunts have become more elaborate and more ridiculous with each film.  While the last movie was all about crashing a plane with cars, Furious 7 is all about skydiving inside automobiles, driving through skyscrapers, and sending out the drones.  At some point, the need for grander, crazier spectacles has to fall second to making a semi-coherent movie.  For me, the elaborate stunts in Furious 7 are a step too far from the race wars of fifteen years ago.

The Fast & Furious franchise shows no signs of stopping, even with the passing of one of its iconic stars.  Furious 7 is the proof of it.  This ode to Paul Walker gets the job done and entertains us.  However, there are some cracks starting to show in the franchise's armor, regardless of how much money it makes this weekend.  I do realize the enormous challenge James Wan, the cast, and the crew all faced with the passing of Walker.  I also realize that I've written in the past that these aren't good movies by normal standards and feature glossy gas guzzlers, gorgeous girls, and great gadgets.  Still, the films have to adhere to some form of logic, and the coherence train is starting to leave the station.  Furious 7 gets a 0.06% rating.  Have some Coronas with this one.