After 7 of these things we kind of know what to expect from the Fast & Furious franchise, but the most inconsistently-titled movie franchise of all time still manages to rise from the ashes of cliche and reinvent itself time and time again. Furious 7 has been the most difficult for the successful brand and, surprisingly, is the most enjoyable of them all. It’s also, unsurprisingly, the most emotional.
Every two or so years, for over a decade, we have checked back in with this increasingly tight-knit group of street-racers-come-over-the-top-action-heroes but the air surrounding them has of course changed with the recent death of central star Paul Walker (who plays Brian O’Conner). As such, a big question going into this film was how it would handle O’Conner and whether or not he would die in film. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but there is an effectively emotional tribute that has a genuine tone and will likely bring a tear to your eye.
Making his death an even sadder affair is the fact that Walker gives his strongest performance here, far outshining the rest. And that’s saying a lot here; the chemistry between this ensemble has become so strong that almost every performance is a step-up from the previous films, cutting through all that terrible dialogue to piece together the non-action sequences and push the story forward. However, these performances are only considered strong because of the context; Furious 7 won’t be blowing anyone away with Oscar-worthy scenes but it does hold up against similar action films incredibly well.
The film once again ropes Walker in with his ‘family’ of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriquez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, and Dwayne Johnson, united against the vengeful brother of the previous film’s villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) with the eventual help of an unnamed and resourceful government operative played by Kurt Russell. The plot plays similarly to what we’ve come to expect from big budget action films, maintaining the same structure and speeding full throttle towards the finish with rich set pieces and heart-pumping action on the way.
Director James Wan (The Conjuring) adapts his usual flair for innovation to make F7 the best looking action film in years, wrapping around the memorable sequences with skill and making full use of the settings. This is most evident in a daring stunt which has Diesel and Walker flying a bright red, $3.5 million Lykan Hypersport between three skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi after a tense, stealthy invasion at a lush party.
There are moments of weakness though. Every bit of dialogue between Diesel and Rodriquez almost feels like satire and it’s still frustrating to see Gibson, who is a very talented actor, take Roman and play him as the one-liner joker. Those moments are far outweighed by the fast pace and thrilling action; this is, after all, one of the most self-aware action series of all time, and for every outrageous action or line comes an irresistibly stylish scene to beg some quick forgiveness.
From the beautiful sights of Abu Dhabi to the spirited streets of Los Angeles, F7 never really stumbles or loses sight of it’s deeper messages of loyalty and family, speeding towards it’s emotionally satisfying conclusion by reminding us that this ensemble is the always going to be why this franchise has sustained itself for so long, and why we keep coming back for more.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 137 minutes
Furious 7 is now screening in cinemas