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Director: James Wan

Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott

Top Billed: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel

Saying goodbye is never easy, Furious 7 says farewell to a family member in what may possibly be the classiest send off any actor or character has ever received.

“No matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter mile away or halfway across the world, you’ll always be with me, and you’ll always be my brother.”

 Summary

I’ll start by warning that if you haven’t at least seen the last 3 movies in the Fast and Furious franchise then you’ll be completely lost. That being said even if you have seen the last 3 films, you might still be lost. Centering on the old crew you’ve grown to love, Furious 7 picks up where Fast 6 left off. With the addition of Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, the “big bad brother” of Fast 6 villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), as he hunts down our anti heroes to seek vengeance. Meanwhile there are several side plots and new characters corralled into the mix, making for a bit of a convoluted mess that becomes quite difficult to describe, culminating in a beautiful moment for fans of the franchise to pay their respects to one of it’s mainstays, the late Paul Walker.

 Review

It would be difficult to discuss or review the movie without of course prefacing everything by mentioning the passing of Paul Walker. Walker tragically died in a car wreck before production had wrapped on the film, posing so many difficult questions (like should they just scrap the whole movie?). Even though Furious 7 delivers it’s trademarks, fast cars, hot women, insane hyper real stunts, and hilariously bad one liners, Walker’s real life fate is never far from the audiences mind.

Furious 7 will undoubtedly not be the last film of the franchise, but it still feels like a beautiful goodbye. This installment of the series does all that it can to stuff the last 15 years or so into one monumentally complicated story. As is the way in today’s Hollywood, this film looks to top it’s predecessors in grandiosity, making for an incredibly entertaining, if not absolutely ridiculous experience. Attempting a ominous tone to begin the film, we see our characters in two different graveyard scenes within the first 20 minutes. Coincidentally, in every scene there seems to be this ghostly presence looming over Walker’s Brian O’conner. The stakes are raised as the film progresses to the point where it’s troubling to watch him dart in and out of life threatening situations. The whole time there is this horrific idea that at some point, we as an audience are going to have to say goodbye to someone that has felt like family.

The Fast and the Furious franchise has been slowly building an incredibly rich storyline since the series was revamped in 2009. Bringing back your two favorite characters it became apparent that from here on it would be Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian’s (Walker) story. The films have had a significant timeline of events weaving in and out seamlessly from one film to the next creating a dense mythology only further exploited by Furious 7. From start to finish this film delivers its promises, to provide unflinching, high octane action. New to the franchise, Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) does well to get the story back to it’s roots, heavily featuring cars. So many loud fast powerful masculine cars! The whole film is just a series of eyebrow raising stunts and  misogynistic fun.

Abandoning all laws of physics, Furious 7 goes for broke and succeeds at providing the best stunt choreography and most stunning visuals the series has offered to date. Visually, it is unbelievably appealing, with several exotic locations offering up lot’s of eye candy. If nothing else this film will give you a visual feast. Starting in the beautiful streets of Los angeles, we then travel to mountain side forests, then off to the desert landscapes of Dubai, and finally back to the LA skyline, Wan takes you on a journey through the best set designs and locations possible. The cinematography is large in scale and fantastic to boot. The movie is made for IMAX screens.

Diversity is king in Furious 7. The film spans three continents and embraces it’s culturally rich plot and cast. Introducing several new side characters including Thai martial arts master Tony Jaa, West African actor Djimon Hounsou, Bollywood star Ali Fazal, and MMA badass Ronda Rousey. With the exception of Rousey, this installment recruits heavy hitting talent and even throws in Kurt Russell as “Mr. Nobody” for good measure. Keeping the franchise fresh with talented new faces prevents this film from being stagnant, and keeps pushing the limits of the story. While all of these actors play minor roles there is no questioning the glee on their faces. They had fun with their respective roles and delivered enjoyable and memorable performances in their limited screen time.

 While the new additions were a pleasure to see, the reason fans keep coming back images (39)is for the family that started it all. The sad truth is that Diesel, Walker, Bridges, Gibson and Rodriguez are not exactly destined for the Hollywood hall of fame. They are not the most talented group actors, but one thing they are is a family. There is no questioning the clear chemistry that this group shares. Bringing with them a rich and deep history. This camaraderie is what keeps the fans enthralled. The emotion is real throughout because you believe that this crew is truly concerned for each others well being on and off screen.

Furious 7 provides wonderful visuals and solid chemistry while balancing several different story-lines. However, the whole thing just gets way too complicated. Jumping around between 3 or 4 separate archs just created a giant convoluted mess of a film. You’re left to try and follow an endless interconnecting web of story that struggles to keep you invested. Furious 7 becomes so difficult to explain that it’s plot becomes completely unmemorable.

The acting, or lack there of, is more prevalent in this installment than ever before. Understanding that viewers don’t see a film of this nature with the expectation of getting first class performances, but the sincerest of moments play out like a laughably bad soap opera. Vin Diesel, who through most of his career has lacked all subtlety, decided to play this film so low-key that he comes off like a stone faced mannequin up until the last 5 minutes. Dwayne Johnson wasn’t even trying to be serious, and his character was given a slew of cringe inducing one-liners. Ronda Rousey, in the 2 lines of dialogue she muttered, manages to ruin what should have been  pivotal fight scene. This film set new records for macheesmo moments, with death defying situations ending in characters walking away without a scratch.

 Overall

All of the negatives aside, what James Wan was able to do with Furious 7, given the obstacles he faced, is nothing short of amazing. He juggled interconnecting lines of parallel action with deftness, precision and grace. The visuals did not skip a beat, and the bravery needed to complete and edit around the tragic loss of Walker so that he could be included in the franchise he and Diesel essentially created, is breath-taking. While there are certainly moments where the knowledge of Walkers passing make it difficult to watch. The ability to create a movie with the overarching storyline that we inevitably are set to say goodbye to Brian, and the subsequent farewell moments of the film were handled to perfection. In one of the most emotional tributes ever seen on screen, the audience is able to pay their respects to the franchises north star. Walker, appearing in all but one of the 7 films, is in fact that guiding light and his presence, while no longer physical, will likely linger in spirit as the Fast and Furious franchise soldiers on.

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Walker’s tribute will fondly bring tears to your eyes

This film delivers and ups the ante from it’s predecessors. The cast and crew had fun, genuine unbridled fun, and it shows in every frame. In the waning moments you get to see the image of Walker’s Brian O’conner gleefully embrace his family as his friends stare on in what is a subtle goodbye. Finally we get to dig up some old footage and with the help of Walkers brothers as stand ins and some flawless CG work we get to see Walker and Diesel sidled up in their vehicles for one last ride off into the sunset, with an overhead shot of Walker splitting off, reminiscent of Robert Frost’s famous “The Road Less Traveled.” Simply put this tribute is one of the classiest and finest to ever grace the screen, due in no small part i’m sure, to the fact that off camera this was not just a random group of actors but truly a family. The idea of giving this film a score seems so unimportant, however that is the purpose of this review, so I’ll give Furious 7 a 3/5 If you are a fan of Walker or the franchise, I implore you to see this film so that you too can pay your respects to a fallen friend and indeed experience the “one last ride” that I’m sure Walker would have wanted you to enjoy.

#ForPaul

Below is a link to the song that plays in the final moments of the film. By no means strictly specific to Walker or the film, perhaps it will allow you as it did me a portal to guiding you back to your memories with fallen friends of your own. If nothing else the tribute and music will remind you that we all may have lost loved ones but as long as we carry on their memory they are never truly gone.

3/5 Not Bad Bro