‘Fast & Furious 7’ Review: Ridiculously fun
When Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) first met Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) in The Fast and the Furious (Rob Cohen, 2001), he was only robbing consumer electronics to finance the very expensive hobby of street racing. More than a decade later and after 6 sequels, Dominic is globetrotting with a crew of very talented speed drivers, battling terrorists and totaling cities along the way.
It is all fantastic, how the franchise has evolved from an actioner involving a family-oriented criminal who is only trying to protect her sister from the romantic advances of the copper who wants him behind bars – to the monstrous abomination that is Fast & Furious 7. Even more fantastic is how despite all its excesses, Fast & Furious has turned out to be unapologetically fun.
Bigger and crazier
James Wan, who is more famous for launching out a string of very successful horror franchises like Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, now takes a stab at both directing action and taking over an already successful franchise instead of initiating one. He does a good job at continuity, at maintaining whatever has made the franchise into such a reliable cash cow.
The films aren’t reliant on their contrived and complicated plots. Fast & Furious 7 has Dominic and his gang reunite to work with a top secret government arm to rescue a hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) who has devised the ultimate anti-privacy program from a terrorist ring.
The ex-criminals are in on helping the government for the sole purpose of defeating Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the vengeful and highly dangerous brother of a man they somewhat crippled in a previous film.
It is all very ridiculous, and Wan absolutely acknowledges it. He knows that the franchise is a lot bigger and crazier than what it used to be. It isn’t just about muscled cars and random models in neon colored thongs, although the film still has a lot of them on display. It is about one-upping what has already been done before, by hook or by crook.
A circus act
Fast & Furious 7 can no longer be satisfied with car races and chases, so it has its cars come free falling from military-grade planes to land somewhere in Azerbaijan only to be bombarded with bullets, explosives, and whatever else the wilderness has to offer.
The franchise has already recruited Hollywood’s toughest, from Diesel to Dwayne Johnson, who reprises his role as the no-nonsense cop with a never-ending supply of witty verbal threats. The only way to top that is to include in its roster of baddies Statham, Ong-Bak’s Tony Jaa and UFC’s Ronda Rousey to give Diesel, Walker and Michelle Rodriguez a far more challenging time.
It’s all a fun circus act. Wan knows that the film’s audience is only interested in the spectacle so he delivers in spades, having a multi-million vehicle jump off one expensive building to another, staging an ultra-violent catfight between femme fatales garbed in cocktail dresses, and an entire plethora of other essentially empty but undeniably insane goodies.
Sentimental in the end
Fast & Furious 7 does not spend all its time conjuring bad boy fantasies for its audience. The film allows space for a certain degree of emotional gravity, especially since its production was met with the tragedy of Walker’s unexpected death.
Amidst the daring stunts and inane joking around, the film retains the core of a film franchise that was founded on intense familial loyalty with a tribute to a fallen comrade.
The touching endnote tends to feel a tad out of place, given that its emotional resonance seems undeserved from a purely narrative and cinematic level. Wan directs it like a corny postcard, complete with narration over images of sun-drenched beaches and happy families.
It is however a risk worth taking, to cap a high-octane action film with a suspiciously subdued coda. It only reveals that this mutation of a blockbuster is as sincerely sentimental as it is heavy-handed. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios