Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
Director: James Wan
Screenplay: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Action/Crime/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 137 minutes
Release Date: April 3, 2015
Scott, it looks like the final installment in the Fast & Furious franchise.
With this series earning literally billions at the box office, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of spin-offs of this series. That makes some people furious. Let’s recap.
We’re reminded that in Furious 6 the gang conquered Owen Shaw. In Furious 7 Owen’s brother Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out for revenge. He breaks into Hobbs’ (Dwayne Johnson) office and hospitalizes him. Shaw then turns his attention to Dom’s (Vin Diesel) crew and sends a bomb to his house. This alerts Dom to the fact that he and his “family” might be in danger. After a trip to Japan to claim Han’s body, Dom returns to LA and collides cars head-first with Shaw which causes Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to show up but Shaw gets away.
Mr. Nobody tells Dom he will help him stop Shaw if Dom’s crew can prevent terrorist Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) from obtaining God’s Eye, a computer program that can hack into any device and use face-recognition applications to find any person anywhere in the world. The rest of the movie consists of innumerable car chases and car stunts with the good guys (Dom and his peeps) prevailing over Jakande and his gang. Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) want to start a family and the film ends with Dom waxing nostalgia about all his previous adventures with Brian.
Scott, Furious 7 is supposed the be the last in the Fast and Furious series. With the untimely death of Paul Walker, the production and release of the film was delayed. The remaining scenes with Walker were completed with his brothers as stand ins. Additionally, Dwayne Johnson was not available for the film as he was filming Hercules. So, they recruited Kurt Russell to play the lead cop role.
Within its genre, this was a pretty good film. The stunts were expertly performed and looked real. However, the plot was merely a series of empty scenes holding together amazing feats of vehicular gymnastics. The continued theme that Dom doesn’t have friends, he has family was over abundantly clear. In our book Reel Heroes: Volume 1 we classified such films as ensemble heroes. The question I have is whether it is a family ensemble or a military ensemble.
I’d say that what we have is an unusual military-family hybrid, Greg. For me Furious 7 is an odd movie. As you point out, the film was cobbled together around the mostly unavailable Dwayne Johnson and the premature demise of Paul Walker. We’re left with a strange arrangement of screen time for Johnson’s character and a reduced role for Walker’s character. It comes across as odd but for the most part we, the audience, aren’t terribly affected by it. The important thing, after all, is the car explosions.
If you’re a fan of this franchise, the ending of Furious 7 will tug at your heartstrings. The filmmakers here give Walker a nice sendoff. Vin Diesel does a commendable job carrying this film; he’s clearly the leader of this ensemble cast. But as this is the seventh installment, it’s apparent that none of the characters in this film are destined to change or transform in any meaningful way. I suppose an argument can be made that Vin Diesel softens up at the end when he realizes that Brian is leaving the group, and that the group is forever transformed now without Brian. But these transformations (if they did happen) are not critical to the plot of the movie, and in fact the plot itself is not critical to the main goal of the film, which is to destroy as many moving vehicles as possible.
The supporting cast includes Kurt Russell as “Mr. Nobody” – a mastermind for the forces of good. He’s supported by a horde of nameless/faceless soldier-types. Jason Statham is the villain character who is supported by a horde of nameless/faceless minions who are trying to steal the “God’s Eye.” With so many people in the ensemble cast, there isn’t much room for any other characters to come to the fore.
You’re right, Greg. I believe there may have been four sets of ensembles — two good guy ensembles and two bad guys ones. Except for Dom’s group, we don’t get to know the members of the ensembles; they are each led by a memorable, dominant character but consist of a sea of rather forgettable underlings. In truth, the supporting cast in these Furious movies are the cars. Vehiculophiles will love this movie, although if you love cars I don’t know how you can handle the total annihilation of so many innocent gleaming machines.
Furious 7 is the epitome of the car chase movie. If you like car chases, you’ll love this film. It’s not much on plot, but it is high on action. The film suffers from the intermittent absence of two of the main stars. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I appreciate the quality of the work. I give Furious 7 2 out of 5 Reels.
The ensemble hero pattern is clear here. The group functions as a family with Dom in the father role. But it is also a military-like group with missions and gunplay. Despite the vacuous nature of the film, I liked this group. I give them 3 out of 5 Heroes.
There weren’t a lot of secondary characters here. The villain was a simple pure evil bad guy. We don’t know how he came to this vile place so he doesn’t have much dimension. Mr. Nobody is no better. He’s just a pure good guy with power from on high. Then there are minions on both sides. It’s not a complex group, so I give them just 1 out of 5 cast points.
Greg, this type of movie is painful for me to watch. As you’ve intimated, the goal of the film is to provide audiences with as many fiery car chases and car stunts as possible. None of the stunts are believable and it gets tiresome watching people escape horrific falls and catastrophic collisions unharmed. The plot is so irrelevant that we barely notice the oddly small, almost cameo-like inclusion of The Rock and the diminished screen time of Paul Walker. I’ll give the film 2 Reels out of 5 only because Vin Diesel and Kurt Russell can be fun to watch.
There’s not much to say about the hero story. No one watches a Furious movie to sink their teeth into a good, juicy narrative structure. Audiences come to see chases, collisions, fireballs, and a high body count. The heads of the ensemble groups in this film all do a serviceable job in their roles and so I can give the heroic ensembles a rating as high as 2 Heroes out of 5.
There were plenty of supporting characters in this movie but except for the leaders of the ensemble groupings, these supporting characters are quite forgettable. The exception might be Hobbs (The Rock’s character) but Hobbs doesn’t hang around long enough to make much of an impact in this movie. I did admire the performances of Shaw and Mr. Nobody, and for that reason I’ll give a rating here of 2 out of 5.