Release Date: 3 April 2015
Running Time: 137 min
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel
If anyone had said in 2001 that a movie about street racing with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel would become a multi-billion dollar franchise, you would have instantly suspected they were Mr Diesel’s agent. Yet here we are, six films later, and while Vin’s big heist in 2001 was boosting DVD players off a truck, this seventh instalment has him sky-diving in a car onto a mountainside road. So look out your muscle shirts and shades, polish up your chunky crucifix, and strap on your seatbelt because Dom Toretto and the rest of the gang (sorry, ‘family’) are back with the latest instalment of modern cinema’s unlikeliest mega-franchise: Fast & Furious 7.
After super-villain Owen Shaw was defeated at the end of Fast 6, his older brother – a sort of cockney Terminator played by Jason Statham – swears revenge and sets his sights on our heroes. With nowhere to run after his house is bombed, Dom is approached by Kurt Russell’s government spook and offered a deal: if Dom and his ‘family’ can locate a hacker and the dangerous software of her design, then he’ll help take down Shaw in return. With their backs against the wall, the team start on an adventure across the globe in a series of enjoyably preposterous stunts. Meanwhile, Dom’s relationship with long term partner Letty (Rodriguez) is on the rocks due to her amnesia and Jordana Brewster’s Mia is afraid to tell husband Brian (Walker) that she’s pregnant as he’s seemingly bored by domesticity.
It’s this weird combination of soap opera and action that makes the Fast & Furious series so popular; the action is just as heightened as the emotions, and with six films worth of backstory and an established group dynamic, Fast & Furious 7 is self aware and self confident enough to embrace melodrama. There’s also a goofy likeability to the characters and the outlandish scrapes they find themselves in, like watching an energetic puppy chase its own tail. While the running time might be a little long, things do whip along at a frenetic pace most of the time and the upbeat, frothy tone makes it increasingly unique amongst its peers in the action genre.
With a host of exotic locations, fast cars and wild stunts, Fast & Furious 7 is the flashiest film to hit cinemas in a while. At times it’s perhaps a little too flashy, with the camera having a tendency to swoop over and circle around actors during conversations, a bad habit franchise newbie James Wan seems to have picked up from the action films of Michael Bay. In the same vein, there’s also a disappointingly lurid treatment of women throughout, with several occasions where Tyrese Gibson ogles a bikini-clad woman and the audience is invited to ogle alongside him. This is particularly disappointing given that Fast & Furious is frequently cited as a big budget film series with a gender balanced and racially diverse central cast. If you’re able to forgive this then there’s a lot to enjoy, including some neatly inventive fight scenes where the camera literally rolls with the punches (and flips with the suplexes). Similarly the fast paced, over the top action sequences are slickly put together without ever losing clarity.
There is of course a dark shadow that hangs over the film; the untimely death of Paul Walker in a high-speed crash at the end of 2013. While much of his performance had already been filmed, the need to work around this loss does mean that several scenes are shot around him, with other characters talking about him as a body double does something in the background. However, his departure from the series is tastefully handled and genuinely emotional. As always, Fast & Furious shows a big heart and a lot of affection for its cast and characters. There has surely never been a film so thoroughly silly and preposterously entertaining with such a moving, compassionate finale.