Film Review: Fast & Furious 7

The say that “blood is thicker than water” but apparently a stainless steel roll cage trumps the lot! I don’t exactly know why I have been waiting with such anticipation for Fast & Furious 7, after all, the sixth incarnation of the franchise was beset with physical impossibilities and spoiled climatic stunts, but that didn’t matter, because I’ve grown up with Dom, Brian and the gang, and I feel part of their family to the point I can forgive them a few issues just to get to hang out with them again.

I must say though, that I hate what Michael Bay’s influence on the Hollywood “Action” film has done to that family. The original movies worked and hooked me because they felt true. They felt like it could actually happen. The car chases involved cars racing on race streets, with hand guns rather than military grade miniguns. They used real world parts, got their hands dirty, had grease under their finger nails and laughed about 10 second cars. You truly felt that if you wanted to join them all you needed was a socket set, some Halfords vouchers and a driving licence.

Michael Bay - Transformers

But the story has been going on for so long now Hollywood has lost sight of this, and in grim determination to reinvent, keep fresh and to keep “modern” they’ve ramped up the stunts, the car chases, the fight scenes, constantly looking to outdo not only what has gone before, but any other film that surrounds them. And I blame Transformers, and thus Michael Bay, because it’s getting to a point where the stunt action sequences in the film are now so outlandish and unrealistic that they are actually harming the film. It no longer feels real.

It doesn’t help that the cast is starting to feel bloated and visually incompatible. Vin Diesel is still the alpha male, but he’s challenge in that roll from the good and the bad by Jason Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And while Statham looks right as the villain, there truly is a glint of nasty, unrelenting menace in his eyes, it’s just the same twinkle he brings to every roll, he doesn’t feel especially twisted or new. While The Rock just looks like muscle. He is just BIG. Almost comically out of proportion with the world around him. The result is that Diesel just gets sandwiched between the two looking tired and old. There is almost a drained acceptance in his eyes that he doesn’t really want to be playing the part any more.

Dwane "The Rock" Johnson - WWE Wrestling

And while the alpha males all look extreme opposites, things for them get even worse when they start to act. The Rock arrives fresh it appears from his days in the WWE, speaking as if he’s about to “slay down the smack” and the film very nearly lost me when in the opening moments he crowns his arrival with an old school wrestling move. Even worse is when after his extended break, second coming actually felt like his was chaneling his inner Arnie, and I half expected The Terminator theme to start playing!

Statham doesn’t fair much better, he’s meant to be a single man bent on revenge and retaliation, but he seems to have the ability to procure anything he needs, pop up anywhere he likes, and be perfectly positioned to remain one step ahead at every turn without a single outside source of assistance, or anyone noticing him. And the longer it goes on, the more it really starts to play on your mind and become a big distraction.

I also have a huge issue with the portrayal of women in the film, as for large, large parts it appears that they are mere window dressing, something to be objectified and goggled at. It creates an adolescence tone and makes the film feel like nothing more than a cheap teenage lads mag. It adds nothing to the story apart from reminding you just how far from the original films things now are. I also hate the fight sequences, there is just something about the hyper realism of them, the use of CGI to ramp up the punches thrown and kicks landed, that leaves them feeling blurry and out of focus.

Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez & Tyrese Gibson - Fast & Furious 7

The reason the original story and a lot of the earlier films worked so well is because they centred on family and loyalty. The cars were the glue that bonded them together but the themes were about sticking by the ones you love, whatever the cost. It made you part of that family and won you over whether you liked cars or not. That family is essentially back with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) supporting the main cast and instantly reminding you of why you love the films and why the action that surrounds them is fast becoming too stupid to support.

Ludacris and Gibson share some brilliant comic timing, while Rodriguez brings the heart, humility and compassion that ooze out of her scenes with a cheeky grim and warm smile. And it’s the simplest scenes of reminiscent dialogue between her and Diesel, especially one in a lift, that are easily the strongest and most enjoyable part of the film. And the only part that really packs true emotional punch.

Paul Walker - Fast & Furious 7

I have to finished by mentioning Paul Walker though. He died tragically in an unrelated car crash during the filming and his passing is handled with dignity in the film. While you can see the use of CGI infill and  with his brothers standing in at times, it still holds together and you never feel cheated. There is obviously a specific tribute to him and his character as you’d expect, but the emotions it stirred up were not. I wasn’t really sad, it’s not tear jerkingly soppy, but I did feel the first moistness of tears forming. Not something I thought I’d ever say about a Fast & Furious film, but it suddenly hits you that he’s gone. That Brian, the character who was you, the likeable, loyal, out of place but welcomed anyway equal, has died, and won’t be coming back and so you almost start to grieve, as his final send off is shown.

As a film it was better than I expected, the stunts are massively implausible but they are not so bad as the last film that you just lose all faith in them, and it’s got enough heart and emotional bonding between the main characters, timed and positioned perfectly, to win you back even when it does get a little close to the mark. It’s probably one of the better Hollywood blockbuster action films of recent years and while they don’t need to make an 8th, you can be sure they will and I for one, won’t be complaining.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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