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New Review: Furious Seven (2015)

Updated on April 7, 2015

Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Jason Stathom, Kurt Russell, Djimon Honsou, Tony Jaa, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Sung Kang, Lucas Black

For the majority of its running time, Furious Seven is exactly what you'd expect a movie from the Fast & Furious franchise to be. It has all the preposterous stunts fans of this series crave, lots of gorgeous and scantily clad women, lots of cheesy tough guy dialogue (sample: "You want to know the thing about street fights? The street always wins!"), and lots of cool looking cars. It's all pretty entertaining if you don't think about it at all, and while director James Wan shakes the camera just a little too much during the action scenes, he keeps the movie moving at a lightning fast clip (the movie is 137 minutes long, but it honestly doesn't feel like it).

Then, just as things appear to be wrapping up, the movie hits us with a final five minutes that are so poignant that it put an honest to goodness lump in this critic's throat. Furious Seven is, of course, the movie actor Paul Walker was in the process of making before he was tragically killed in a car accident back in 2013. The final five minutes are in Walker's honor, and Wan does such a good job not only paying tribute to the actor but giving his character a proper send off, that it's bound to elicit an honest to goodness emotional response from the audience, whether you're a fan of the franchise or not.

The movie opens up in a hospital in London, with ex-secret agent Deckard Shaw (Jason Stathom) visiting his critically injured brother Owen (Luke Evans), who was the villain in the previous movie. We get a good idea of what kind of villain he's going to be when he walks out of the hospital, and leaves total destruction in his wake. We then cut over to our heroes. Dom (Vin Diesel) is trying to reconnect with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), his amnesia-stricken girlfriend he reunited with in the previous movie, while Brian (Paul Walker) is trying to get used to settling down and being a family man (his introductory scene, where he drops his son off at school, has a pretty funny set-up).

Rest in peace, good sir!
Rest in peace, good sir!

Just as we learn that Brian misses the thrill of the chase, the vengeance-seeking Deckard sends Dom a bomb in the mail, endangering not only him, but also his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), Brian, and Mia and Brian's young son. When news reaches them that Deckard has already killed Han (Sung Kang), which we saw happen in the post credits scene in the previous movie, Dom gathers his old teammates -- Brian, Letty, computer whiz Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), and comedy relief Roman (Tyrese Gibson) -- to exact their revenge. Agent Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is sent to the hospital early on after an explosive encounter with Deckard, but shows up again in the climax, where he steals an ambulance and uses it to...well, you'll see.

Kurt Russell shows up as a high tech government agent who calls himself Mr. Nobody. He hires Dom and his team to save the beautiful hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) from a vicious terrorist, played by Djimon Honsou. If they succeed, he will give Dom and his group an extremely powerful tracking device called the God's Eye, which will make it virtually impossible for Deckard to hide from them. Their attempts to rescue Ramsey leads to a wildly and preposterously entertaining sequence where our heroes drive their cars out of an airplane, parachute safely on a road in the Caucasus Mountains, and face off against a heavily armed convoy.

From there, the team find themselves on adventures that take them from Abu-Dhabi (where Dom and Brian perform a gravity defying stunt by driving a very expensive looking car through the three Etihad Towers) to the streets of Los Angeles, where they have to survive a heavily armed helicopter and a military drone (which causes a lot of destruction). All of this is, as you would expect, beyond absurd, but it's handled with so much energy and style by Wan that you can't help but go along with it. Furious Seven is what it is and is proud to be just that, and that is just one of its many charms.

The performances in the movie are also quite good. The returning players are, by now, so comfortable in their roles that they can pretty much play them in their sleep. Diesel is just as commanding as ever, and Walker is as likable as he always was as Brian. While neither Stathom nor Honsou are particularly menacing as the villains, you can tell they're having a lot of fun with their roles, which makes it fun to watch them. Tony Jaa has a couple of entertaining action scenes as Honsou's henchman Louie Tran, and Emmanuel is an attractive addition to the cast. The best performance is easily turned in by Russell, who is so charismatic as Mr. Nobody that he easily steals the show every time he's on screen.

"Time we started "conjuring" up some kick ass mayhem, guys!" (Get it?! Conjuring, because...James Wan and....yeah, never mind.)
"Time we started "conjuring" up some kick ass mayhem, guys!" (Get it?! Conjuring, because...James Wan and....yeah, never mind.)

It's no surprise to say that Furious Seven is far from a perfect movie. One can't help but wonder how much more entertaining the action scenes would have been if Wan hadn't had the camera shake so damn much. It doesn't render the set-pieces incomprehensible, but it does get a bit distracting at times. Ronda Rousey shows up briefly in the Abu Dhabi segment, and just like in last year's wretched The Expendables 3, she is painful to watch. And many of the character focused subplots (Mia is pregnant with Brian's second child and wants him to settle down, Letty runs away briefly so she can "find herself," etc.) are really quite cornball, although I guess that's to be expected with this franchise.

Some of the scenes with Paul Walker are also a little problematic. It was said that CGI effects and body doubles were used to complete Walker's scenes, and at times it becomes quite obvious. There's one fight scene in particular where Brian faces off against Tran in a very darkly lit set. It's obvious that Walker didn't do this scene because, while we see Jaa's face quite clearly, we never see Walker's until the end of the fight, where it might have been easier to digitally insert his face.

Casting those quibbles aside, Furious Seven is a good movie that delivers exactly what you'd expect, and in its final moments, just a little bit more. For a while, it was a wonder whether this movie was ever going to see the light of day, but I'm glad it did. As someone who hasn't been a huge fan of this series (I don't hate any of them, I just never had the urge to revisit them), I was surprised how much this movie worked for me. Furious Seven isn't just a fun and brainless entertainment, it's also a tender and heartfelt farewell to an actor who was taken much too soon, and was a lot better than a lot of people gave him credit for.

Rated PG-13 for tons of action, violence, suggestive content, brief strong language

Final Grade: *** (out of ****)

What did you think of this movie? :)

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Furious Seven (2015)


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