It took me a while to warm up to the Fast and the Furious series, and even now I’m not sure why I’ve come to begrudgingly enjoy them, or at least some of them. I mean – they aren’t good. There are better car chase movies, better fight movies, better ensemble casts. And yet I went to the latest installment, Furious 7, on its first week in theaters. I’ve become a fan of the series, somehow. I’ve come to like some of the characters. I’ve learned to appreciate the ever-bigger car related action sequences. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid, basically, and this week I plunked myself down for another cup. And I enjoyed myself, if we’re being honest. But also if we’re being honest, Furious 7 is still only a decent action ride, bogged down by a trainwreck of a script and saved mostly by some great action sequences and fun performances. It isn’t the worst action film I’ve seen this year, nor is it the perfect-ten a lot of my peers are saying. It’s just a fun enough action movie with a lot of the same problems the series has always suffered from.
The action starts almost immediately after the finale of Furious 6, with Deckard Shaw, the brother of Furious 6 baddie Owen Shaw, vowing revenge on Dom Torreto’s crew for putting his baby bro in traction. After FINALLY catching the timeline up with Tokyo Drift, killing series regular Han, Deckard sets his sights on the rest of the crew.
But then Kurt Russel’s mystery G-Man, Mr. Nobody, shows up with an entirely different plot in tow and tasks Dom and the gang with retrieving a computer program called God’s Eye. The hacker then can control it, with the idea that Dom takes it out of the hands of some baddies and then uses it to track down Deckard.
So for reasons that should be obvious, Furious 7 clearly went through a whole whack of what we can only assume were major script revisions partway through shooting. While the reasons were entirely understandable, the result is still a goddamn terrible script. What starts off as a basic Dom vs. baddie with a revenge motive kinda deal suddenly morphs into this entirely different storyline when Russel’s character literally drops into the movie with a whole new plotline that feels like it was probably taken from a spec script for Furious 8. From then on, the whole middle of the thing feels like watching two plotlines wrestle, as Dom & co. track down the God’s Eye program, with Shaw occasionally just popping up to go “Oi! I’m in this movie, too, you forget about me?” It’s this ugly, shambling Frankenstein monster of a plot where motivations can change from scene to scene and we’re never quite sure what everyone’s endgoal is.
One minute Michelle Rodriguez’s character is giving this big impassioned speech and, by all appearances, walking out of the movie to “go find herself,” then she just shows up again three scenes later like nothing happened. One minute Dom’s only goal is to protect his family and the next he’s off on some completely unrelated fetch-quest that came right the heck outta nowhere. It’s all over the damn place, and while I’m sure the scriptwriters did the best they could with the bad situation they were put in, the long and short of it is that the script feels like several different story ideas stitched together, and badly.
To the film’s credit though, it does still do a remarkably good job balancing the ever-expanding cast of characters, and everyone gets at least one scene to add to their sizzle reel. Ronda Roussey gets a decent fight in, The Rock gets some fantastic scenes and one liners, adding to the demand that his character just get his own damn movie already, and Tony Jaa’s character… Actually, sorry can I take a moment aside for a second?
How the bloody hell did it take TWELVE YEARS for Tony Jaa to show up as the designated martial-arts henchman in an American action movie? Or in an American action movie in ANY capacity? Did he just not want to do any before? Because seriously, when the movie lets him do his thing, he kicks a lot of ass, and if this is the start of him finally getting more roles and recognition here in the west, I am all the way aboard.
Ok, anyway, back to the review proper.
The one sad exception to the decent handling of the characters is Lucas Black’s cameo as his character from Tokyo Drift, which is noteworthy mostly for how he literally ages ten years in between shots. It’s too bad, I kinda like the dude for some reason and I hope the reports of him getting a bigger role in future installments prove to be true.
Another thing a lot of people have been remarking about is how respectful and mature the film is about the departure of Paul Walker from the series and addressing the specter of his death that hangs over virtually every frame of the film. Without spoiling anything, it’s all pretty true. Walker’s departure from the franchise is done about as respectfully as you can imagine, and his send-off is, if nothing else, extremely earnest, heartfelt and well-handled.
Furious 7 delivers what we’ve come to expect from a Fast and the Furious movie at this point: car stunts and chases galore, most of them done in practical effects and a soundtrack that punishes speaker system with a cacophony of explosions and engine revs like Christian Grey for electronics equipment. There’s extended montages of scantily clad bodies in exotic locales, delivered with the furious editing of a rap video, and at least 10 per cent of the shots in the film start on some anonymous woman’s ass as she goes about her business. You get what you were expecting, in other words.
However, we need to be honest with ourselves that it still isn’t great. The script is a nightmare – a nightmare with an understandable origin, but a nightmare nonetheless. The stunt sequences rank as some of the best in the series, however, and a lot of the stuff at the periphery is a lot of fun. However, Furious 7 still comes across as a bit of a mess structurally, just a mess with some genuinely fun stuff haphazardly nailed to it.