Vin Diesel has stated that the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise “Furious 7,” or as director James Wan wants it to be spelled, “Furious Seven,” was the hardest film he ever had to make due to the passing of Paul Walker. Behind all of the puns, jokes, and ridiculousness of the stunts performed on screen, the effort really shows. This franchise has always been about the “family” element present between each character, and this film celebrates that with grace. Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is coming after Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his family after what they did to Statham’s brother Owen, played by Luke Evans, in the previous film. From this feud comes explosions, racing, and heisting all in the span of 137 minutes. Yet with all of the mayhem going on, the theme of family still shines above it all, which is what makes this movie, as well as this franchise, as great as it is. This film doesn’t just continue a story that audiences all over the world have connected with; it embraces the nostalgia of the previous films and, in a way, brings everything full circle.
It seemed unusual to hire a director like James Wan, who specializes in horror films such as “Saw” and “The Conjuring,” for something like this, but the movie as a whole is incredibly well directed and shows how much potential he has as an action director. Wan showcases everything you’d want to see in a film from this series and amps everything up to new levels. The action sequences, despite being absolutely crazy, are really well-shot and well-executed, making them all the more fun. He gets the best performances he can out of each actor in the film, and overall helped to tell a fun and touching story. Same goes for screenwriter Chris Morgan, who seems to have known exactly how ridiculous some of the stuff he wrote was and embraced the craziness of what his mind came up with. The dialogue might have been cheesy and the action pieces he wrote might have been over the top, but that’s to be expected from a movie where cars skydive out of a plane. Despite the zaniness of that amazing sequence, somehow that isn’t even the most ridiculous thing in the film!
If these films didn’t have the chemistry that these actors bring with the characters they play, then it’s doubtful that this series would have been as successful as it’s been. Vin Diesel is great as Dom, as he’s always been. He’s big, he’s tough, and most importantly, he’s a great brother to his friends and family in the movie. Beneath all of the muscle and hair on his head is a vulnerable man who will do whatever means necessary to protect his family. Every stunt Dom and his crew perform in this movie is all for the sake of protecting su familia, as crazy as that may sound. Diesel may not be one of the greatest actors out there, but he’s sure as hell believable as a man who cares about the people he loves. Speaking of which, the chemistry that Dom has with Paul Walker’s Brian is especially powerful not just because of the real life tragedy of Paul Walker’s death, but also because of how the filmmakers decided to send Walker’s character off.
Considering what the filmmakers had to do to “bring back” Paul Walker’s character to finish the movie and give him the send off he deserved, this is an incredible use of visual effects. If you pay close attention, you can tell when it’s the real Paul Walker vs. when it’s a CGI Paul Walker. But honestly if you don’t even think about it, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference. From the structure of the face to the placement of the character in certain scenes, it’s as if Walker was still around to finish the film. That’s how good it looks. Not to mention, the CGI used to do some of the film’s most ridiculous of stunts look fantastic as well. You may be able to tell that it was done on a computer, but that sure as hell doesn’t take away from the fun and zaniness that the scenes deliver on.
It’s easy to say that Paul Walker gave a great performance in his swan song of a film because it’s true. From the scenes that Walker was able to shoot, it was obvious that he loved what he was doing and truly cared about his craft. Thanks to the power of CGI, the support of Walker’s family, and a couple of script changes, Walker was able to get the tribute and send off that he and his character rightfully deserve. It’s emotional to see him on screen at times, but in the end it’s good to know that everyone involved with the movie knew better than to simply kill the character off. Brian O’Conner is retired here, and in the best way imaginable. Walker always had a likable charisma to him, not to mention being easy on the eyes platonically speaking, and he will surely be missed. Definitely expect people to get teary eyed at the beautiful tribute the filmmakers gave him at the end of the movie, because it truly is a bittersweet and beautiful sequence for someone taken from us too soon.
As for the rest of the actors in the film, Michelle Rodriguez’s character Letty is more fleshed out here than she has been before due to the events of the previous film. This gives us, the audience, a chance to empathize with her situation more, as well as some great exchanges between her and Diesel. Jordana Brewster has a much smaller role than she’s had before, and overall she did a solid job in her time on screen. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson delivered as the comedic relief of the movie despite some jokes being stronger than others. And then, there’s Dwayne Johnson. Not only is this man a badass, but in a way he is the quintessential action star of today. Spewing ridiculous phrases almost every time he opens his mouth, as well as performing some of the most insane but hilariously awesome things in this series, Johnson shows that he loves what he’s doing and embraces his larger-than-life physique in spectacular fashion.
As for the newest additions to the franchise, Jason Statham is a whole lot of fun as Deckard Shaw. If you thought Owen Shaw was a wonderful villain in “Fast & Furious 6,” then wait until you see Statham take on the Toretto crew. This character seeks vengeance and demands it at all costs, so much so that he’s pretty much everywhere the crew goes in amazing fashion. Don’t try to explain the logic about this; just strap in and go along for the ride. Speaking of going along for the ride, 80s superstar Kurt Russell races in as a government agent who asks the crew to help them retrieve something in exchange for finding Shaw. I personally felt Russell stole the film, bringing a sleek coolness to his performance and overall just being a magnificent presence on screen. Both Statham and Russell deliver on being awesome characters in an action series where the characters are the glue that holds everything together.
“Furious Seven” is an example of what happens when the people behind a movie dedicate their blood, sweat, and time to deliver on making the best product imaginable with what they have to work with. The action is impressive and fun, the story arcs are engaging, the comedy works, and the film as a whole is just a fun time at the movies. If you try to base logic into anything that’s presented on screen, then you’re not going to have as much fun of a time as you may want. This is the type of movie where the logical side of your brain has to be switched off in order to enjoy the glory of everything going on. Seeing this in IMAX enhanced my viewing of the film personally due to the fact that everything felt more immersive and engaging.
The end of the film is very much a bittersweet moment being that it’s a tribute to Walker’s character, but in the end it was the absolute best send off the filmmakers could give him, and it was beautiful. If Universal and Vin Diesel wanted to, they could end the series with this one based on how the movie ends. However plans are already being made for an 8th installment in the series, and I’m totally ok with that. “Furious Seven” has everything you could ask for in a “Fast and Furious” movie, and then some. This isn’t just a great and ridiculously awesome action movie; this is just a flat-out great movie with engaging characters, amazing action, and a wonderful theme of “family” that glues everything together.