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Once again, the minds behind the Fast and Furious saga prove that the laws of scriptwriting, character development, and physics need not apply. In an all out assault on the senses, Furious 7 comes screaming to life from the instant the screen goes black. Faces old and new are woven into a new version of the same old story, along with plenty of shiny new cars, bigger guns, and sculpted bodies. Producers, writers and director, James Wan, in a nod to their loyal audience, have pulled out all the stops to deliver the most insane, senseless, and gratuitously fun film of the year.
Although intensely ebullient, this entry in the Fast and Furious series is accompanied by a looming cloud of sadness – the untimely death of franchise star, Paul Walker. Having shot many of Walker’s scenes before his passing, the producers decided to push on with the film, using Walker’s brothers Caleb and Cody as stand-ins, dedicating the film to his memory. Much more a celebration of Walker’s involvement in the series, Furious 7 seems and apt tribute to the late actor.
Deckard Shaw (a menacing, governmentally-altered Jason Statham) loves his brother Owen (Luke Evans), and is going to get revenge on Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew for the events of Fast & Furious 6. When Shaw gets the jump on Hobbs and hospitalizes him, Hobbs is quick to warn Toretto. Fast and Furious crew assemble! The surviving members of the gang; Brian (Walker), Letty (Michele Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris) come to find out that there is a secondary battle between governmental agent, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and international terrorist, Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), for a revolutionary spy technology – God’s Eye. All of these details are tertiary (or quaternary) to a non-stop string of car chases, stunts, and close-ups of asses. While each are almost guaranteed to resolve themselves, the problems that arise have become a source to provide the justifiable amount of action and location shots necessary to complete an above-par Fast and Furious entry.
James Wan has totally broken the bonds of action movies (and reality) to produce a satire of a once-serious franchise. Long gone are the days when dramatic tension built up, and plot elements had meaning. Characters, rigidly defined years ago, no longer have a need to grow or change; instead Dominic Toretto and crew have become parodies of themselves, constantly breaking down the fourth wall via their strict adherence to personality tropes.
Less real than the characters is the false sense of danger, a cartoonish version of the world where death is meaningless, and the weapons fire flags emblazoned with “bang” and “pow” instead of dangerous projectiles. Traditionally stable levels of gravity and luck have parted ways, giving way to a universe in which driving a car off of a cliff, or out of a penthouse window are viable options of escape – as long as Vin Diesel remembers to tell you, in his deepest baritone, to “hold on.” In a world without meaningful consequence, the filmmakers are free to play within the space that they have created, putting their extreme-minded imaginations to the test.
Wan’s camera seems to be enamored with its own dynamism, flipping and twisting along with characters as they get into various scuffles and fistfights. Stuttered editing and whip pans obscure many of these well-choreographed battles, rendering each little more than a break from Wan’s favorite past time, some sweet driving. Somewhat shying away from series mainstay, the close up double clutch, Wan seldom visits the driving actors’ feet or shift hands. Choosing to focus more on the exterior couples with reaction shots, Wan’s car chases are surprisingly distinct compared to the franchise as a whole.
The highlight of the film, for me, was the impeccably bad dialogue. Chris Morgan must have had a ball coming up with the one-liners and retorts of Gary Scott Thompson’s original characters. Having joined the franchise after the generally-reviled Tokyo Drift, Morgan’s penchant for outrageousness has been apparent in each of the scripts he has penned for the series. Challenging himself to come up with dialogue so unbelievably cheesy, that it somehow works, Morgan has figured out that the line between seriousness and absurdity is indeed a continuum; when you go far enough into the realm of foolishness, you arrive back in the territory of legitimacy.
Sloughing off the bounds of movie etiquette and standards, Furious 7 has gone further into the murky world of performance art than any of the films before it. Having demolished the rules for common decency within a movie, Wan and the Fast and Furious producers have invited their fans to an all-out cinematic party. A communal event where fans from all walks of life (well, sort of) can get together in celebration of the franchise, and the life of Paul Walker, the filmmakers would have done the audience a great service by issuing a statement similar to the following before the film; “Applaud, make noise, and join us in the fun. Furious 7 is not a quiet movie and serves only as a means of immense enjoyment. It is not bound by the traditions of cinema – nor should you be.”