|UK Release Date||3rd April 2015|
|Starring||Paul & Vin|
|Reviewed||6th April 2015|
I’ll be the first to admit that I have not particularly followed the Fast… series of movies. A quick recap thanks to a variety of Youtube clips leads me to believe that until now I have seen episodes one and five. The former on its release back in 2001 and the latter… well, I’m not sure but I suspect it was on TV. Suffice to say, I wouldn’t count myself a fan, the movies have kind of always been there but always been white noise to me, yeah, you know, cars bro. I am aware that after fumbling with the format somewhat for the first three movies, they have now settled down into a kind of driving cars fast for family type of vibe. The current iteration has just mauled a large number of box office records and Vin is on record as saying that it should win best picture at next year’s Academy Awards….
I was intending to review Fast & Furious 7 (or Furious 7, depending on what you read) outside the tragic death of Paul Walker but having sat weeping through the closing credits, I suspect this is a futile intent. The series had come to be defined by its focus on ‘family’ within its weird racing / heist / carnage format and subsequently the loss of one of its own has of course been woven into the story. That Universal have managed this with such a magnificent degree of tact and pathos utterly surprised me.
The seventh iteration picks up broadly where six left off. Jason Statham is Deckard Shaw, whose brother now resides in hospital after the events in the previous movie. Shaw blames the family for this and, having wiped out an entire hospital of special forces, sets off to do the same to Vin and co. Han gets the short straw and soon the family are attending his funeral. With Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs hospitalised after his first encounter with Shaw, and Dominic (Vin Diesel) now homeless due to a surprise package from Shaw, Brian (Paul Walker) packs Mia (Jordana Brewster) and his son off to safety and the family meet up to take out Shaw before he picks them all off. Throw in Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody (probably not his real name), a shady US government agent with a baffling penchant for Belgian ale, a hacker with a universal tracking device called the God’s Eye and a terrorist of some sort in the form of Djimon Hounslow’s Jakande and the scene is set for a deluge of vehicular carnage. Oh, and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) still has amnesia.
What all that leads to is set piece after set piece, all attempting (and largely succeeding) to one up anything done in the previous instalments. Or for that matter, anything done in any other movie. At various times we get the movie that The A-Team should have been, plenty of Ocean's 11 style heist shenanigans, a riff on a scene from the Blues Brothers, an outstanding chase scene culminating in a truly jaw-dropping stunt that I’m pretty sure was pinched from one of the Uncharted Playstation games and, in-between all that, moments when the cast get together to highlight the importance of family. It’s a jarringly uneven path that the movie weaves and one that is not helped by the cuts of Walker smiling and dialogue read with only a view of the back of his head.
To be honest, though, none of that gets in the way of what this movie was evidently trying to achieve. Having spent months agonising on which direction to take following Walker’s death in November 2013, Universal picked the only acceptable route - a magnificently over the top blowout, followed by one of the most heart-rending endings you’ll ever watch. It’s easy to get snooty with these movies, but for a franchise based on what was effectively a knock off of Point Break but with cars, it’s astonishing how much traction it has gained and you have to suspect this is partly down to the family ethos at the core. Not family in the sense of taking yours but more in the sense that everyone involved was in it for each other. The movie goes to great lengths to allow all of its commendably diverse central cast to have their moment (probably contributing to its over-stretched running time) and the poignancy brought to it by the tragic events is palpable throughout. Sure its sentimental but you can’t help but believe that its heart is very honestly in the right place.
So in a way its a movie that will never escape the shadow cast by the absence of one of its family but rather than try to get over that, the studio has wisely gone all in on it. It says a lot for a movie involving dropping cars out of a plane, jumping one through three skyscrapers and having a military drone taken down by an ambulance driven by The Rock, that the memory you will take away is the simple, elegant overhead shot of two cars separating at a fork in the road.
The Fast… movies will always be bombastic B movies that make little sense but in Fast & Furious 7 the film makers have managed to add a heart that is not easily eclipsed by the noise,the dizzying camera angles and the gratuitous booty on show. Out of context of Paul Walker’s passing, this would be an entertaining, if one set piece too long, ride. In context the studio has made a reverential, beautiful (in its own way) and fitting epitaph for its fallen star. So long Paul….