The ‘Fast & the Furious’ is the movie series that defies all logic. Not just defies it in fact – it slams its butt-cheeks square in logic’s fizzog and lets rip with the mother of all airborne toxic events.
Defies it in terms of continuing success: forget the law of diminishing returns, ‘Fast & Furious 7’ is being tipped as the first in the series to break the $1 billion barrier at the global box office. In terms of reception too: while the first four films were panned as mercilessly as an 1880s Yukon riverbed, the more recent entries have converted previously hostile critics into zealous advocates.
And most importantly of all there’s the series’ unyielding, unstinting, unswerving rebellion against all that’s sober, subtle and nuanced when it comes to plot, dialogue and characterisation. On this last count, ‘Fast & Furious 7’ doesn’t attempt to dial back the excess; it instead actively stokes the flames of ridiculousness to towering inferno-like heights – not least via the spot of Abu Dhabi automotive skyscraper hopscotch so shamelessly flaunted in the film’s trailer.
Further upping the silliness quota is the presence of Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, an ex-black ops killer with a whopping great grudge against Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto. Yes, that’s right. ‘Furious 7’ treats us to Jase versus Vin, Statham versus Diesel, Deckard versus Dom. Still, it’d be wrong to caricature the film as a battle of the bad-acting baldies… mainly because there’s no caricature required; that’s exactly what it is.
The vengeful attentions of Deckard Shaw aren’t the only headache for Toretto this time out. Oh no, missus. Because having returned from the dead in ‘Fast & Furious 6’, his old squeeze Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is struggling to come to terms with the life she can’t recall. Haunted by fragmented flashbacks, she finds herself in a graveyard, staring at an inanimate slab of granite. Not just Vin Diesel either – also a tombstone.
So yes indeed, ‘Furious 7’ is probably the most ludicrous entry in a deliriously, purposefully ludicrous screen saga (so ludicrous, in fact, it even features Ludacris as one of its main players). That inherent frivolity, however, is what makes it all the more surreal for the series to have been touched by real-life tragedy – which of course is exactly what happened in November 2013 when Paul Walker died in a car crash following his attendance at a charity event in California.
At the time of Walker’s death, there were rumours Universal might pull the plug on ‘Furious 7’ altogether. But although the film’s release date was shunted by nearly a year, a full shutdown was surely never a serious option given both the financial stakes (the series is the highest-grossing in the studio’s history) and also the desire on the part of the filmmakers to provide fans with a fitting finale for Walker and his character, series co-lead Brian O’Conner.
That Walker was lost before filming was complete is pretty much seamlessly handled, aside from a warm postlude paying tribute to the actor. To create that onscreen goodbye, director James Wan used a combination of cutting edge digital effects, old footage of Walker and the late actor’s two brothers as body-doubles. And while the result is a tad uncanny valley, the underlying sentiment is undoubtedly heartfelt.
‘Furious 7’ marks Wan’s entry to the series, following Justin Lin’s departure to direct Simon Pegg’s script for ‘Star Trek 3’ (amongst other things). It’s also Wan’s first shot at helming a bona fide blockbuster following his successes in the horror ghetto with ‘Insidious’, ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Saw’.
Vin Diesel, for one, certainly seems impressed with his efforts, even going so far as to loudly talk up the right of ‘Furious 7’ to be named Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards. Should that prophecy come to pass, it would be hard to think of another Oscar-winner to have featured quite so many slo-mo bikini car wash shots in its opening 10 minutes, but hey, maybe I’m not remembering ‘The Hurt Locker’ quite as clearly as I think I am.
I feel like I’m running out of words here and yet there’s still SO much more of ‘Furious 7’ to touch upon. Like returning stalwart Dwayne Johnson, or such varyingly successful new additions as Kurt Russell (playing a shady fed called Mr. Nobody), Djimon Hounsou (as ruthless warlord Mose Jakande) or ex-‘Hollyoaks’ actress Nathalie Emmanuel (as hacker Megan Ramsay).
Or even Iggy Azalea, who following on from Rita Ora’s cameo in ‘Fast & Furious 6’, shows up early on and delivers her single line in such fucking god-awful fashion that Wan must have had to stuff minced beef in his ears each of the hundred times he watched his edit back in order to try and protect himself from the anti-acting of the pasty-faced popsicle.
But for all the whistles, bells and shiny trinkets, what ‘Furious 7’ boils down to is the well-honed realisation of an already hugely successful formula. It’s certainly not for everyone; but if you harbour any kind of weakness for the ‘Fast & the Furious’ movies, this seventh helping is likely to go down like a Five Guys greaseball special – you might not feel great about yourself afterwards, but it’s pretty tasty while it lasts.
Fast & Furious 7 is out now in the UK.