It’s time to review the Fast and Furious 7, so strap in and prepare yourself for a significant amount of hyperbole!
Ok, lets get one thing out of the way before we get started: if you need a coherent plot, subtle acting and for logic to generally apply in the movies that you watch then this is definitely not the film for you. The cars, the action, the dialogue, it is all designed to do one thing; get you to chomp popcorn like there is no tomorrow. Look at that picture. That is a supercar jumping out of a skyscraper. If your reaction to it is one of “Hell yeah!”, then you’re probably on safe-ground watching this. If you are in the “Well, that’s a waste of a very expensive car.” camp, its probably best if you avoid this flick.
The general premise of the movie is simple enough. The bad-guy from the last film’s bigger and much badder brother, played to tough, cockney perfection by the chisel-jawed Jason Statham, is understandably angry when he finds out that his younger sibling has been hospitalised by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang of petrol-heads. The fact that the younger brother was the one to start the trouble is left by the wayside, and Deckard Shaw (Statham), sets out to wreak his revenge upon them. So far, so standard. This is where I suspect that the writers were sidelined by the stunt-team, who appear to have come up with a list of bigger, louder and madder stunts than before that they desperately wanted to catch on camera, which they then handed back to the writers with a request that they somehow build a plot that linked the action scenes together. In this way the film falls short of the previous episodes in this series, Fast 5 being the particular standout in this sense in that it had a solid enough plot and sense of what it was trying to achieve to allow the action to carry it along. However, if you are willing to leave the choppy story to one side the action scenes in this film are massively over the top and quite entertaining.
Unfortunately, the sheer amount of moments that are constantly going “bigger” and “louder” means that the sequences that are supposed to get your heart-pumping just become a mish-mash of visual and auditory noise that can start to leave you a little cold by the end of the film. The final problem on the action front is that the series has pushed itself so far in it’s previous instalments that to upstage itself it now has to basically become a superhero movie without the super powered beings. If you listen closely, in amongst the engines roaring and the tyres squealing you can hear a quiet whimper every now and again as both physics and logic are once again punched squarely in the face and told very firmly to get out of the way of the entertainment. This leads to such moments as the one illustrated above, where even one of the main characters voices the madness that fuels this film by racing towards the inside of the villains penthouse windows screaming “NO! NO! NO! CARS DON’T FLY!!!”
There is another thing that this movie has ramped up from it’s previous episodes that leaves a slightly sour taste in the mouth and that is the amount of female skin on display. I should say at this point that I’m not a prude and I have no problem with nudity on film. In fact some of the best movies ever made have copious, even gratuitous, amounts of naked flesh on screen throughout the run time (see the terrifyingly bleak, but excellent, Michael Fassbender movie “Shame” as an example. But only if you’re feeling strong, it’s not a happy film!). The problem I have with this film’s use of the scantily clad females is that it is entirely exploitative. The camera positively leers up overly short skirts at women whose only reason to be on screen is to provide a pert set of buttocks for the male audience to pant over. I found myself feeling quite uncomfortably complicit with the somewhat lecherous camera angles at points in the film. One gets the feeling that there weren’t many feminists on the set of this movie.
Now, it’s easy to be down on a movie that relies on over the top action and vast amounts of female flesh to sell tickets, and it’s not entirely fair to this film or the franchise to say that it is all that there is to this instalment. The fact is that these films have made billions of dollars because the main cast has phenomenal chemistry when they are on screen together and to a certain extent this is still true. This movie doesn’t quite have the smoothness of number 5 or the humour of number 6, but the characters all still feel as though they care about one another and have something like a life outside of this film. That being said the amount of times that Vin Diesel growls something meaningful about family or the street is going up by the film as the growl itself keeps heading for lower and lower octaves. By the end of this movie it can be a little difficult to understand what he is saying because of the fact he is trying so hard to be unbelievably manly about literally everything. Unfortunately this robs him slightly of the charm that he has displayed so admirably in other films, even ones where he isn’t precisely on screen; “I am Groot” anyone? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson continues to provide a lot of bang for his screen-time as Agent Hobbs and, although he isn’t in this one as much as previous entries, he still pulls off his scenes with panache and the twinkle in his eye that we all love so much. Michelle Rodriguez is hamstrung by her character not being given a whole lot to do in the film, but she still provides a winning presence when she is called upon to do so. The real standout of the main crew though is still Paul Walker, which given his tragic and untimely death prior to the film being finished, lends his scenes a lot of extra weight. Without giving too much away, the film is probably at its strongest when paying tribute to him and I was surprised at how well it did this considering it’s credentials as an entertainingly dumb action franchise. It might belabour the point a little long, but considering how loud and silly the rest of the movie is, these scenes are positively sublime. There is one other person who deserves special mention at this point; Kurt Russell. Like many of the characters in this movie he turns up for no apparent reason other than to add run time, but ends up walking away with every scene he is in. His sheer carefree charisma and effortless machismo reminds you why he became a star in the first place and makes you wish he was a more integral part of the film.
The ones who get the best lines are bad guys. Jason Statham shows once again that he is a serious contender for the best action star in the world, providing both bone-crunching impact and athletic precision in the fights and genuine menace in the quieter moments. He regularly out-growls Diesel, but has learned to enunciate enough that you can understand what he is on about. The other stand out villain is Tony Jaa, the Muay Thai wunderkind, who shows up as an enforcer/muscle and even though he only really has one line manages to pack more performance into the fights he is in that most of the main characters do in the entire run-time. I hope that this is finally the point where Hollywood takes notice of his impressive and unique skills and makes him the star he deserves to be. Unfortunately the rest of the villainous line up are not so well served, especially since they appear to have been added purely to increase the run time when the writers have run out of ideas of what Statham should be getting up to next whilst he is pursuing the good guys. This means that although he is set up as the big bad for the team to face he regularly disappears from the story and just pops up from time to time without any real rhyme or reason. The person who is used as the bad-guy place marker when Statham is off-screen is the normally fantastic Djimon Hounsou shows up now and again to shout various bad-guy phrases into a radio mic and look generally angry. Its a sad turn for the man who can usually bring depth to even the most shallow of roles. UFC champion Ronda Rousey also turns up in one scene to look provide a female bad girl who looks annoyed and gets a chance to do some of her trademark MMA/judo style violence, but skilled though she is in the ring she isn’t given much to work with here and comes off more bitchy than terrifying. Overall this muddying of the threat that Statham presents to the main characters reduces his impact in the film, which is a pity as this is something that he is clearly more than capable of doing brilliantly.
So, in a nutshell, although this is far from the best entry in the franchise it still has enough vehicular insanity, charm and Kurt Russell to be an entertaining ride. It could certainly do with being about twenty minutes shorter, and for the plot to be a little less convoluted and packed with somewhat pointless bad guys, but it’s a lot better than most mindless action films these days. So, if you are ready to head to your local cinema, sit down, switch off your brain, ignore mad storyline and the somewhat questionable use of scantily clad women and then yell “GOODBYE PHYSICS!!!” then you could do much worse than Fast and Furious 7.
Three Moons out of Five. Good fun.