Fast And Furious 7: Film Review
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson
Director: James Wan
Fast and Furious 7 sets out its stall in its very first scene with Jason Statham posturing menacingly while promising revenge for his brother and then having the camera pull back as he walks back through scenes of devastation in a hospital, guards beaten and strewn around like rag dolls before getting in his car and speeding off.
Yep, the Fast and Furious franchise is back once again - and with the death of Paul Walker hanging over this latest, there's potentially a lot more riding on it with an emotional pay-off guaranteed.
In terms of plot, it goes like this - Deckard Shaw (Statham) hunts down Dom Toretto (Diesel) and his family over the injuries given to his brother in the previous film. And that is it.
All the elements are in place. You want girls writhing around in not very much while the camera leers up their backside? Check. You want dialogue that's written by cavemen? Check. You want self referential OTT moments that are for the fans? Check. You want Dwayne Johnson delivering Schwarzenegger style one-liners while tearing a cast from his apparently broken arm while in hospital? Well, check and check.
And yet, Furious 7 considerably ups the hysterical ante in its overly long and dangerously close to bloated run- time thanks to some incredible eye popping stunts and set pieces, deftly and tautly delivered by director James Wan.
Wan knows how to control the action, mixing in comedy, almost balletic like fight scenes and ballsy pedal to the metal chase sequences that drip with as much bravura as they do ludicrousness. Cars fall from planes and segue into a thrilling mountain-top sequence that's action packed and leaves you breathless; a relatively pointless jaunt to Abu Dhabi to steal a MacGuffin from inside a car ends up in skytop leap of such insanity that's it's repeated twice in as many minutes and a final downtown LA set piece sees more destruction wreaked in a city than recent superhero outings - and borrows a Die Hard moment for kicks.
Which is an apt comparison because Toretto and his team of extended family have become almost superhero-like in their escapades. There's barely a scratch on any of them as they roll with the punches, endure the beatdowns of the almost Terminator-like Shaw (Statham in a po-faced but effective turn) and wreak utter mayhem in the overblown male posturing that follows with regularity.
Sure, you could bemoan the dialogue (most of which is chewed by the Rock and Djimon Hounsou's cartoon terrorist), complain about the fact the reconnecting romance between Toretto and Rodriguez's Lettie slows things down and roll your eyes that the weak paper thin plot is absurd (the group has to track down a hacker who has a device that hacks into every electronic device to help them locate Shaw), but judged on its merits and genre, Fast 7 is a total, glorious success delivering blockbuster moments that are as adrenalin-filled and crowd-pleasing as they are jaw-dropping. Taken on its own terms, this cartoon cars caper is a blast, an extreme bromance that revels in its own rules.
But, at the end of the day, Fast and Furious 7 will be about the poignant send-off for Paul Walker.
It was a tough line for the cast and crew to draw in the sand for his Brian character and it's likely that when the swan song comes for him, if you're invested in the franchise, it'll be the moment that sees you reaching for the tissues.
During the film, it's inevitable you find yourself wondering if each sequence that places Brian in jeopardy will be his ultimate departure. But when the time comes, there's a heart-warming, heavily meta-soliloquy from Diesel's character at the end that probably speaks for the entire cast and crew of the production, as well as the millions of fans with the words "It's never goodbye" having a resonance that will give this flick its emotional core. (Interestingly, NZ's WETA had a hand in the digital trickery needed to keep the character in the film).
Ultimately, it's hard to be cynical when faced with the spectacle that is Fast and Furious 7 - it's cartoonish, over-the-top machismo (with females getting nary a look-in) and defies belief - but it's a thrilling, visual, visceral blockbuster that delivers everything its fans want, and will once again confound box office expectations and non-believers that this franchise continues to roll on.