Sometimes it is best to go out on a high. There is nothing particularly wrong with the seventh instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise but if it can’t match the heights of the sixth, you have to wonder if the magic is beginning to fade. That doesn’t make Furious 7 a bad movie, just one that lacks the spark of the previous one.
It does have potential. One of the best aspects of Fast 6 was that it had a decent villain, someone that felt like a threat for the “Family.” This continues, directly linking Furious 7 with Fast 6 by having Luke Evan’s Shaw being avenged by his brother, Deckard, played by Jason Statham.
Already this should have people excited. Statham versus Diesel or more excitingly, Statham versus The Rock is an intriguing premise. The latter doesn’t disappoint and is a set-piece that many people would be excited to see. The former comes during a messy finale and never really delivers what you hope it would. In fact, none of Statham’s involvement does, his presence feeling more like a fringe character to a quest movie rather than the actual focus of Diesel and the “family’s” journey.
It is one example of some glaring issues with the script. The last movie felt like it made sense, with a story that led you on a thrilling and in some cases emotional journey. This script feels like it is attempting to get the movie from one impressive set-piece to another. This isn’t a complaint for the most part though as the set-pieces here are incredible.
There are three notable scenes which demonstrate the strength of the series and how far it has come. One set-piece involves chasing a bus down a cliff-edge road which ends with some great stunt-work and death-defying jump. Another sees a great jump between buildings for a super-car, with Diesel and Paul Walker bickering in the car while the finale adds to the “car versus…” series that exists within the franchise. This time it is cars versus a drone. Although quite a cool concept, it never really lives up to the tank confrontation from Fast 6 which has become the franchise highlight (so far).
Generally, that feels like the overall theme of Furious 7. It is a very good film but never lives up to what has gone before. Diesel has a grudge but never gets to really make-good on it. Statham is a good villain but never really lets loose. Dwayne Johnson is as necessary as ever for the franchise but spends most of the run-time in a hospital bed. It has plenty of potential throughout but never really takes full advantage of it.
One area it does excel at is the covering of Paul Walker’s absence. Famously dying during the filming, a mix of previous footage, CGI and Walker’s brothers used as stand-ins does a great job of hiding the seams. With prior knowledge you are aware of his absence in some scenes or strange ways to film some moments but it is done expertly and a testament to his memory. I defy anyone to leave with a dry-eye when they spend the final moments of the movie recapping and remembering his contribution to the franchise.
It could also be used as a sign to end things on the relatively high point. Furious 7 doesn’t disgrace the franchise considering it is the seventh in the series but it is beginning to lose it’s soul and purpose. What was clever rebooting and redesigning is not an attempt to get from one impressive stunt to another. This works very well but clearly has a shelf-life.
Overall, Furious 7 tries to build on the success of Fast 6 without ever really matching it. It is a film with a dodgy plot, familiar characters but under-used strengths, namely Statham and Johnson. The action-sequences are impressive though and it is at least a touching tribute to Paul Walker.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)