Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell
Runtime: 2 hrs 14 mins
Rating: PG13 (Violence)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/FastandFurious
Opening Day: 2 April 2015
Synopsis: Continuing the global exploits in the unstoppable franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast of Fast & Furious 7. James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. They are joined by international action stars new to the franchise including Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey and Kurt Russell. Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell return to produce the film written by Chris Morgan.
Vin Diesel may have been the most indelible trademark of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, but its late star Paul Walker has consistently been the Yang to Diesel’s Yin. Beginning on opposite sides of the law, Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Walker’s Brian O’Connor became unlikely allies and then both family and partners-in-crime over six successive entries, the former’s hot-headedness perfectly counter-balanced by the latter’s sense of measure and reason. It is no secret that ‘Furious 7’ is Walker’s final performance, an inevitable consequence of his untimely death in a car wreck last year while filming on this latest instalment was underway. It is therefore inevitable that one steps into the movie wondering just how the filmmakers would give his character a send-off, fearing at each death-defying turn that it would simply be his end.
All we will say is that its writer Chris Morgan has given him as dignified a farewell as we can expect, and as the epilogue made up of footage from each one of the movies past echoed Diesel’s personal message of brotherhood and family, be prepared for perhaps the series’ most poignant moment ever. This however we will say – Walker is front and centre in each and every one of the action setpieces that Morgan and its new director James Wan conceive for a solid but otherwise unspectacular entry which can’t quite match the fun, excitement and adrenaline kicks of Justin Lin’s two earlier chapters. Oh yes, the filmmakers have pushed the boundaries of logic and gravity to try to top the over-the-top thrills of its two predecessors, but ironically the strain of their effort is more apparent than ever.
Indeed, it is telling when a car chase along the streets of Los Angeles no longer gets our pulse racing in the same way that the first movie did – and there is one in particular between Dominic and his arch-nemesis here Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) that is particularly nostalgic. Rather, it will take parachuting Mustangs chasing after a rogue paramilitary unit up in the Caucasus mountains led by Djimon Hounsou’s terrorist Jakande to get us to truly sit up, but let us reassure you that this sequence teased in the trailer ranks among the finest that this muscle-car franchise has offered. It takes close to an hour to get to this point, as Morgan sets up the vendetta between Deckard and Dominic (and as his crew) and sets in motion the pieces for their latest adventure.
Frankly, the plot exists only as the narrative glue for the various stunts meant to be the highlight of any ‘Fast and Furious’ movie. There is no point questioning just why Kurt Russell’s shadowy Government agent would entrust a supposedly time-critical mission of retrieving an all-seeing surveillance programme known as the ‘God’s Eye’ and its creator (Nathalie Emmanuel's Ramsey) to Dominic and his men without so much as having his own team to stand by. Ditto for why Dominic would even agree to put his men in such danger despite being promised that they could use the said device to track down Deckard, in particular since the latter seems to show up on his own accord at every turn to foil their plans. We get that the franchise needs to shift gears in order to stay fresh (like how the fifth movie reinvented itself into a heist caper), but this detour into international espionage is far less convincing to say the least.
It also explains why we were not quite taken by the sojourn into the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, compared to say the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in ‘Fast Five’ or the streets of London in ‘Furious 6’. Yes, it does provide the opportunity for Dominic to crash a Lykan HyperSport out through one of the upper floors of the Etihad Towers, float across the Abu Dhabi sky while Deckard fires grenades at him, then smash through a window of a neighbouring tower, and finally skid past a small deployment of Terracotta Warriors – but it is so ridiculous even by ‘Mission Impossible’ standards that one cannot help but react with bemusement than wide-eyed awe. That leaves an overblown finale in the most literal sense of the word, which sees Jakande strike up a convenient alliance with Deckard in order to unleash war on Dominic and his men in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Between Jakande’s unmanned drone and his military helicopter, the urban warfare cannot quite match the white knuckle suspense and exhilaration of a massive bank vault dragged through Rio or an assembly of race cars taking down an airplane as it prepares to take off.
Certainly, Wan had big shoes to fill with Lin’s departure, but the helmer (better known for ‘Saw’, ‘Insidious’ and ‘The Conjuring’) who has never taken on a project of this scale misses the mark on several counts. Not only is the action more ‘meh’ than ‘wow’, there is too little of the camaraderie between Dominic and his crew which gave the last two films an added ‘zing’. Notwithstanding that Sung Kang’s Han and Gal Gadot’s Gisele are gone, there is too little emphasis on the rapport among Dominic, Brian, Dominic’s still-amnesiac squeeze Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), droll techie Tej (Ludacris), and flashy motor-mouth Roman (Tyrese Gibson) to ring home the concept of ‘family’ that Dominic keeps going on about. Just as sorely missed is the dynamic between Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s Federal Agent Hobbs, the latter of which pretty much sits out the whole movie after being injured by Deckard in one of the early scenes – and despite what promise it may have shown, the mano-a-mano showdown between Diesel and Statham cannot quite live up to that between Diesel and Johnson in ‘Fast Five’.
After the dizzying heights of the immediate last two movies, it seems inevitable that ‘Furious 7’ will be at least slightly underwhelming – and if not for the beautiful sendoff for Paul Walker at the end, it would be even more disappointing. To prove that there is still juice left in the tank, this chapter has taken our street racers and turned them into international operatives, but that transition is awkward and quite unbelievable. Besides the centrepiece up in Azerbaijan, the rest of the action is equally preposterous. It is also less entertaining as an ensemble piece, replacing Johnson’s effortless charisma for an all-too-stoic Statham. At this point, the franchise seems to be its own enemy, and if we weren’t quite so taken by ‘Furious 7’, that’s because we knew from ‘Fast Five’ and ‘Furious 6’ that it could have been much better.
(It hasn’t quite run on fumes, but besides a dignified farewell for Paul Walker, this seventh entry doesn’t match the fun, excitement and adrenaline rush of its two immediate predecessors)
Review by Gabriel Chong