By Chris Withers
The worst thing that could happen to a major franchise is the loss of a major cast member. Paul Walker’s tragic death, in most cases, would have spelled the death of The Fast and the Furious but somehow the franchise has continued on, both by finishing this film and beginning the next one. The reason I bring this up is because, outside of the ending, very little of the film seems changed.
The story is rather simple, but not in a bad way. Owen Shaw, the villain from the sixth movie, has a previously unmentioned brother, played by Jason Statham, who starts coming after Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), and his extended family/friends. The film begins with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), killing Han, a friend of Toretto, and putting The Rock in the hospital. From there Toretto and friends meet with Kurt Russell to go on a chase for Shaw and a warlord for the government. If this sounds about as far removed from the plot of the first movie as it possibly could… thats because it is. By the fifth movie The Fast and Furious had gone from being a series of films primarily about street racing to being a standard action movie franchise with the almost Avengers-esque twist of having continuity from the previous films, and the main cast being assembled from the fan-favorite characters of the previous installments.
The characters have always been one of the selling points for the series. Paul Walker’s Brian is the smart and Kung-fu guy being a former FBI agent; Ludacris plays a super-hacker who is actually really fun to watch for his dry sarcastic humor; Tyrese Gibson plays the comic relief guy whose antics normally revolve around his general dumbassness; and in previous films Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez would basically just be playing the superman/superwoman of the team who can do anything with a car even if it bends the laws of reality, like fighting a tank with a super car.
The reason I said normally is because in Fast Six there was far more character development regarding Toretto as he attempted to get an amnesiac Letty (Rodriguez), to remember him and the rest of the gang. As Furious Seven opens Letty still hasn’t gotten back her memories, and while she is falling back in love with Toretto she feels left out because of all of the memories that Toretto claims that they had, which she can’t remember. This is a great subplot, which the film unfortunately doesn’t do much with. It spends a decent chunk of Act One exploring this, before dropping it completely once the action movie plot starts up, before abruptly bringing it back for the ending.
On the technical side Furious Seven is an excellent action film, great CGI, inventive action scenes that make the most of the car stunt work, all around good stuff. James Wan, of Saw, and The Conjuring, is the director this time around and seems to have found a unique voice in the action genre. If I had to compare him to any other current director it would be Joseph Khan. The two share a music video inspired style, to action choreography. They utilize quick edits, zooms, and rotations for establishing shots; pulled back angles and largely static angles during the action. Wan does a fantastic job adding so much needed originality to the film from a directorial perspective, which I’m sure is a contributor to its global success. The music is also good, largely rap and electronica pieces, but two pieces See you again and I will return stand out, especially the former as it feels like a direct tribute to Paul Walker.
While The Fast and Furious will continue it won’t quite be the same without Paul Walker, but thankfully his swan song is one of the series best. I won’t say that it’s better than Fast Six but it is definitely a great entry. Great acting from all involved and a very mature send-off to Paul Walker makes this a fantastic summer blockbuster that we just so happened to get in April. Go see it, and if you have, go again.
For the first time since his announcement that he was leaving the horror genre behind I feel excited for what comes next for James Wan, and Michelle Rodriguez continues to prove that she needs more credit as a great actress. While the Internet all joked about Vin Diesel, claiming that this movie would win an Oscar, I kind of see where he was coming from. Compared to generic garbage like, The Imitation Game, Furious Seven has a diverse cast, good writing, good acting, and a much more mature and relatable story than most modern action films. So yeah Vin, it does deserve an Oscar, I’ll vote for it.