Too fast. Too furious. Too unbelievable?

Like a head on collision the seventh installment of the Fast and Furious movie franchise, Furious 7 or Fast and Furious 7, smashed the box office and made $392 million worldwide, the third highest opening of all time. It grossed more than $500 million in less than a week. But we’re not here to crunch numbers. What about the movie? Okay, okay, mash your brakes (prepare yourself for a lot of these motor-related puns). The following is my review and a warning for minor spoilers:

Not so fast

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Wait for it, wait for it…

Full disclosure I was not initially a fan of this long running and oddly titled series (the original The Fast and the Furious came out way back in 2001). Not being a gas brain the initial focus on fancy cars and high speed chases just did not get my motor running (I did warn you at the start).

Starting with part four, the strangely titled Fast and Furious, the movies started to add more action and story development to the mix, and this stirred my interest. The fifth installment, Fast Five, which introduced the always entertaining Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, was a great blend of gunfights, fist fights, tightly paced storytelling and heart racing vehicular carnage.

Let’s get Furious

Furious3
I already got a lady

So let’s shift gears to the latest movie. The Rock is back and he rejoins the main cast including Vin Diesel as “the family” patriarch and former criminal Dominic “Dom” Toretto, and Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner, cop turned criminal turned anti-hero. Walker died tragically in a car accident on November 30, 2013 – feels like just last year – before he could film all his scenes and the producers had to use his two brothers as doubles and some CGI magic to complete them. When he came on screen at IMAX people in the cinema applauded. His real life death adds an emotional depth to the movie, but we’ll get to that later.

All the Fast and Furious elements are here: beautiful cars, one guy actually whistled at one vehicle like he had seen a sexy lady; gratuitous female butt shots including of new cast member Nathalie Emmanuel (“Game of Thrones”); and lots of chases and action.
Also joining the cast this time around is Jason Statham as the villain. Now Statham plays the same tough as nails, no nonsense character in EVERY movie, and at this point I suspect he is pretty much just playing himself.

He “plays” Deckard Shaw, vengeful brother of the previous film’s villain Owen Shaw, and spends the movie terrorising our heroes. He is like a jack in the box – you never know when he is going to pop up but you know he will eventually and he will likely be carrying a large caliber weapon. Shaw kicks things off by kicking up The Rock and then killing the lovable Han-Seoul-Oh played by Sung Kang. The stage is then set for the ultimate revenge story. You would think so wouldn’t you?

Wrong Turn

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Do you have insurance?

Story, however, is where Furious 7 gets off track. The plot meanders from scene to scene, place to place, country to country and serves mainly to set up the next car battle/chase sequence. There is no urgency or strong thread, almost like you’re watching the shifting scenes of a music video.

And those vehicular scenes? Beautiful to look at and well choreographed. But you do not just suspend your disbelief for these scenes. No. You tie your disbelief on to a rocket and launch it into the stratosphere. They stretch reality so much that it goes from exciting to “nah man!” Diesel’s character should be dead in this movie at least four times, likely more. He may still be in character as “Groot” from Guardians of the Galaxy because he performs some superhuman feats and also speaks primarily in one liners. He also bends and lifts a car. An entire car! I know Diesel is buff and everything but “come on!”

The scenes where it is man versus man and not cars versus cars and much more palatable and the one on one fist fights are gritty, visceral and brutal. The outstanding, and criminally little known martial artist, Tony Jaa bounces around and kicks lots of backside – mostly Walker’s – as an otherwise generic henchman. Speaking of generic Djimon Hounsou is in this movie as well as a villain but continues to waste his talents playing forgettable villains; he did so in Guardians as well.
And how could I forget Kurt Russell who plays some government agent guy, a hero not a villian, and who gets to shoot some people. Tango and Cash anyone? #snakeplisskenlives? Go watch a movie!

Final lap

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Surprisingly Furious 7 shines more in the lighter moments when the volume is turned down. Tyrese Gibson is mostly funny as the motor mouth Roman and the back and forth between him and Chris Bridges’ Tej is a riot. The relationship between Dom and the amnesiac love interest Letty is touching. Walker’s character Brian has some nice family stuff as well.

The thing that will grip and twist your heart strings is the end tribute to Walker, which serves to say goodbye to both the character and the actor. If your eyes are dry after this then you are dead inside. Dead inside I say!

Furious 7 is not a great movie but it is a fun one. It is an uneven movie with a razor thin plot but it makes up for it with a lot of flash and bang, tonnes of action and a surprising amount of heart. And to see Brian/Walker drive off into the sunset, literally and figuratively, is alone worth the price of admission.

Rating: Furious 7  gets 2.75/4 nitro blasts!

So what did you think of the movie? Feel free to comment below.

For my ranking of all Fast and Furious movies you can click here. And for more thrilling movie posts you can check redmangoreviews, new posts Monday to Saturday, and follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates. Got your back like a chiropractor. l8rs

NB – This review originally appeared in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.