One can say many negative things upon exiting a screening of Furious 7 (or, in territories where audiences are considered too stupid to recognise a franchise when they see one, plain old Fast & Furious 7), but you sure can’t argue that it doesn’t give you your money’s worth! At an obese 140 minutes, Furious 7 is a movie too dumb to sustain its running time. Unless you’re going to give us some philosophy beyond “I Live My Life A Quarter Mile At A Time”, you surely can’t expect us to dedicate almost two-and-a-half-hours to your headache-inducing, manic explosion of middle-aged aggression. Hey, the cast of the Fast films aren’t so young anymore: Vin Diesel is at the wrong end of 47, his co-stars not far behind, new recruit Kurt Russell a young but noticeable 64. Is the once-winning formula of showing this crew Running, Jumping, Driving and Shouting still going to work? Honestly, it sorta does. Furious 7 delivers everything it promises and- for better or worse- much more. This includes the gross, often vomit-inducing objectification of women like nothing we’ve seen in mainstream American cinema since the mid-90s. Fast Five and Furious 6 director Justin Lin tried his best to steer clear of misogyny for the past few entries (Gal Gadot’s mere beauty compensated for the general lack of any crude sexual content), but James Wan goes and dumps a load of leery sleaze into our laps in the opening scenes of Furious 7. This follows an opening credits sequence of Jason Statham’s villainous villain Deckard Shaw tearing the shit out of a hospital in slow-motion- perhaps the film’s most joyfully over-the-top moment and an indicator of the ridiculousness to come. Statham is, unsurprisingly, Furious 7‘s best asset: his usual cockney geezer shtick taken to the max, as he appears in every major set-piece to simply irritate and distract Dominic Toretto and his street-racer crew. As you can imagine, he’s hilarious and delightful. Simultaneously, Djimon Hounsou is a ton of fun as Angry African Terrorist, and the film’s single best frame is a helicopter shot of him standing atop a cliff looking enraged.
Much of Fast Five and Furious 6‘s manic energy came from Dwayne Johnson’s brilliantly written cop Luke Hobbs (who in 7, through alternately starting his sentences with “Woman…” and ending his sentences with “…boy”, continues to have the best lines of the film), but he is sadly sidelined to a hospital bed for the majority of this entry. However, this only serves to make his grand comeback in the final act even more thrilling, as he fires a cannon at Hounsou’s pet drone. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris are, as always, a waste of screen space: homophobic and sexist in equal measure and providing seemingly no unique qualities to Dom’s team. Why these actors get to stay on board, but the wonderful Gadot and Sung Kang were killed off in Furious 6 eludes and upsets me. As for the fun to be found in the film’s mega-budget action, most of the best stuff is- as with the previous entries- shown in the trailers (I cannot stress highly enough how much I recommend avoiding all trailers for these films).
For a franchise praised so often for the diversity of its cast, the Fast & Furious films definitely don’t shy away from ethnic stereotypes. Among 7‘s supporting players are Hysterical Chinese, Panicky Arab and the aforementioned Angry African. Almost every person who appears onscreen during the film’s Abu Dhabi portion (inferior in every way conceivable to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol‘s) is a one-dimensional cardboard figure, including Ronda Rousey as Strong Female Character. Rousey, and Luke Hobbs’ young daughter, are in fact the only females to appear in Furious 7 who aren’t sexualised. Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez, once well-rounded heroines, are treated terribly by this film’s screenwriters.
The biggest draw for many people will be the semi-presence of the tragic Paul Walker, who was infamously killed in a real-life car crash halfway through shooting. His absence is notable, if not overwhelming, and his appearances in the film are surprisingly abundant. Only towards the end does the use of CGI- and his brothers as body doubles- become apparent, and one particular scene in which his character and Vin Diesel’s say a final goodbye is moderately disturbing. Wan has undoubtedly succeeded in not allowing Walker’s passing to distract too much from the film’s surprisingly complex plot and massive cast, and he should be praised for this. Generally, however, he has produced an acceptable and appropriate seventh entry in a once nonexistent franchise; be it one that fails to surprise its audience to any great extent, or generate any lust for an eighth. I, for one, envy any filmmaker with Diesel, Johnson, Statham and Russell at his disposal; imagine what magical tales can be told….