Somehow a dumb movie about street racers stealing DVD players fourteen years ago got six sequels. Somehow that seventh sequel is on its way to grossing a billion dollars at the box office. Somehow I ended up being all about these movies. Life’s a big, dumb, goofy mess. At least it’s fun.
Furious 7 basically picks up where Fast and Furious 6 left off, with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) killing Han (Sung Kang) in Tokyo as revenge for what happened to Deckard’s brother. This upsets Dom (Vin Diesel), who gathers the rest of the family to avenge Han and ends up setting them on a globe-trotting quest that seems unrelated but it all makes sense at the time. The family, in case you haven’t been paying attention, includes the amnesiac Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s bromantic life-partner Brian (Paul Walker), Dom’s sister and Brian’s wife Mia (the increasingly forgotten Jordana Brewster), the tech guy Tej (Ludacris), and joker Roman (Tyrese Gibson). Also, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is back for some great, horrible one liners at the beginning and end of the movie. I typed all those names from memory.
At this point our heroes’ criminal pasts are completely behind them… Along with any concern for their mortality. This lets Furious 7 feel more like a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie than ever before, which is kind of unfortunate for those franchises which both have sequels due out this year. But it’s awesome for this movie, which embraces vehicular warfare completely and includes some of the most ridiculous stunts I’ve ever seen. Cars dodge missiles, fall out of airplanes, and spectacularly fly between skyscrapers and it’s all awesome.
An observation I’ve read a few other people make is that Fast and Furious movies celebrate and enjoy dumb, over-the-top action in a way that a lot of similar movies, like the ones made by Michael Bay, do not. That’s a dark reading, one that suggests that Michael Bay doesn’t love what he does and is motivated entirely by greed, which I don’t think is the case. I just think Michael Bay’s a mean person who laughs at other people’s misfortune. Conversely, I think director James Wan really wanted to make a movie as fun as the ones that preceded it and that the cast of the Fast and Furious movies genuinely enjoy working with each other.
After Paul Walker died in a crash in 2013 and it was announced that the production of Furious 7 would resume, there was one question every was asking: what will they do with Brian? Walker had not finished filming his role, and since this movie was meant to be the start of a new trilogy of Fast and Furious movies, it seemed unlikely they had anything prepared to make him go away. The team reassured us that they would tastefully retire the character, but this series doesn’t tastefully do anything. Or at least, that’s what I thought until I saw the end of this movie. The last few minutes don’t tonally make sense with the plot, but sure does work as a fond farewell to a real person who really isn’t here anymore. So additional props to you, Furious 7.
Looking back over my review of Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6, I’m surprised I gave both movies a three-and-a-half star rating. That seems low for movies that ranked among my 10 favorites for the whole years they came out. I guess the big difference between me now and me then is that I am at this point free of any shame in enjoying this franchise. I still think Fast Five is my favorite, but I think this new one is a close second. It’s pretty great. But when you live your life one quarter mile at a time, that can seem like quite the distance.