At its best, Furious 7, and the series as a whole, feels like the pinnacle of action cinema. Moments hit like injections of pure adrenaline. Gargantuan set pieces are interspersed with sexy music video segments and mumblings about family. In this seventh installment newcomer James Wan has primarily pared the series down to those bare essentials. After the events of Fast & Furious 6, and subsequently Tokyo Drift, Owen Shaw’s older brother Deckard (Jason Statham) targets Dominic Toretto and his high-octane family.
James Wan proves himself up to the 200-million dollar challenge, capturing the crew’s bombastic movements as they aid the U.S. Government (led by an awesomely hammy Kurt Russell) in order to gain access to Shaw’s whereabouts. Jason Statham is a welcome addition to the franchise, casting his intimidating presence over the film and gracing the camera with his ever-reliable action chops. In many ways he is the perfect Furious villain – menacing, full of testosterone, and able to deliver overcooked one-liners convincingly – emblematic of the film as a whole. The mainstays are having fun as well, with all of the trappings (Diesel’s masculine mumblings about family, Gibson bantering with Ludacris, etc.) in tow.
The middle act, consisting almost entirely of non-stop action, is refined, ludicrous thrill. The biggest (and best) set piece is the “plane jump” teased in the theatrical trailer. Dozens of vehicles, car-to-car jumps, ebbs and flows, fist fights, bullets, sound – action. It hits viscerally like a grenade exploding for 20 minutes and it never lets up. It is these absurd, theatrical, inventive set pieces that prop the series up. Unfortunately Furious 7 does not save its best for last. The finale is uninspired and bloated in relation to all the dynamism that came before. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t good enough. Even Wan seems to have lost his stylistic flair that previously turned images of racing cars into exhilarating art; shots are dull and seem to repeat themselves – it all blends together.
Thankfully the rest of Furious 7 is relentlessly entertaining. The lackluster finale is easily forgiven in context of the inventive adrenaline of the first 100 minutes, and the emotional final 5 minutes. It is best described as an experience of images – an exotic location, a muscle car, light glinting off of the surface, roaring, pedal pressed all the way down, the air smelling of burning rubber, bikini clad women slinking between two cars and exhaust smoke, a deep hip-hop beat thrumming somewhere in the background. Wan understands this. One moment sees Diesel and Walker marveling at a car basking in the Abu Dhabi sun parked next to a priceless painting. Wan finds the artistry in the vehicles, and what the characters do with them.
R.I.P Paul Walker