Well this one’s just shot straight to the top of the list of movies it’s OK for guys to cry at. The untimely death of Paul Walker in 2013 has cast a shadow over the latest instalment of Universal’s ever-revving blockbuster franchise, but aside from a fitting nod to its former star, FAST & FURIOUS 7 manages to avoid putting a dampener on proceedings.
After the near-fatal injuries his brother receives at the hands of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang, rogue operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) begins to exact his revenge, hitting his opponents where it hurts. But is this extreme game of cat-and-mouse really just about one family wronging another or are other factors at play?
It seems like more work has gone into the script than usual for a Fast & Furious film. There are some real zingers sprinkled throughout, like the smirking enigma Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) debating with Dom’s team how to bring down Shaw: “Wanna know how to kill a shadow? You shine a little light on it”.
In case you couldn’t keep up with the human story behind the tire smoke, Dom spells it out for us with “I don’t have friends – I have family”. The gang have had a few last missions now, but now they’re retired it’s a very personal attack on multiple fronts that gets them moving again. This is the first time there’s been any chemistry, let alone passion between Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). All it took was some convenient amnesia to reignite the fire of their relationship. The series hasn’t reached full-on spoof levels yet, but it doesn’t take itself overly seriously unless it’s required in order to move the characters forward.
For the joyously silly moments you have Brian’s (Walker) panicked exclamation of “Dom, cars don’t fly!” before Dom makes a car fly, and loads of convenient Corona buckets stowed just out of shot until Dom gets his thirst on. For Dom’s final showdown with Deckard sees (of course) our hero wielding a pair of wrenches and his adversary using bits of car he’s just torn away with his bare hands. It’s this style of frenetic action, always technically glossy but with tongue-firmly-in-cheek that audiences are quite rightly still turning out for seven films in.
While the script has clearly been given some extra thought to make the characters shine (though Tyrese Gibson’s Roman is getting annoying as hell), some more effort could have been put into the plotting. It can never seem to decide who’s chasing who, and who wants what and why. The main driving force behind the plot aside from good old-fashioned revenge is both sides wanting to acquire the ultimate hacking/surveillance software “The Gods Eye”, but we’re never given a proper rationale for its use. Shaw is helping a terrorist cell get it because of reasons, Dom is helping Mr Nobody get it because of different reasons. Just roll with it, basically.
Much like FAST & FURIOUS 6, they’ve added a formidable female opponent into the mix, which of course means Michelle Rodriguez has to fight her. I do find it particularly sexist when you hire athletes of the calibre of Gina Carano or Ronda Rousey, but only let them take on Michelle Rodriguez when they could absolutely destroy Diesel or Walker. Maybe they’d make the argument that Dom and Brian would be too gentlemanly to fight back, I don’t know.
The team give Paul Walker a wonderful sendoff, and I really don’t think it would be possible to handle his tragic death any more sensitively. You do notice his scenes they probably had to finish off with stand-ins when the editing or lighting changes drastically for no real stylistic reason, but the best is made of a bad situation. Most touchingly of all, when the time comes to bid a fond farewell to Brian, it no longer seems like it is Dom talking about losing a brother, but Vin Diesel mourning the loss of Paul Walker. It’ll be interesting to see where they can take the story next, and if they can keep making such enjoyable action movies even without one of their stars, then I say keep the Fast & Furious movies coming. SSP