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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Last weekend, Furious 7 opened to massive numbers. Originally planned for a Summer 2014 release, Furious 7 suffered production issues after the death of series co-star Paul Walker. The latest installment of the long-running car-centric franchise, buoyed by a curiosity factor surrounding the aforementioned untimely death of the likeable Paul Walker and the rumor that this may be the final installment (fingers crossed that it isn’t), drew in massive crowds, earned an ‘A’ Cinemascore, and was well-received by critics (81% score on Rotten Tomatoes). I liked it quite a bit as well, though I ultimately have some reservations.
One of the most interesting aspects of Furious 7 is how it is able to organically incorporate so much of the series’ past into this newest installment. Dwayne Johnson is back as is Michelle Rodriguez. Johnson’s role in Furious 7 is smaller than in Fast Five or Fast and Furious 6, and I imagine that, if future installments are produced, he may be written out entirely. But he is always a welcomed presence. Lucas Black, not seen since 2006’s Tokyo Drift, makes a welcomed cameo as well. Of course, the story still revolves around Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, though Diesel gets nearly the full brunt of the action this time around. Diesel has long been the heart and soul of the franchise, and that doesn’t change here.
The action spectacle in Furious 7 is also top-notch. The film’s budget, estimated at about 250 million, is bloated for sure, but at least the bloat can be seen on-screen. This film features some of the most outrageous stunts ever put to celluloid. The Abu Dhabi action sequence is absolutely amazing, for example. This is also the kind of film that will feature a man driving a car down a mountain and I swear you will not blink at its incredulity. It is fascinating just how far this franchise has come in terms of spectacle, and on a pure spectacle level Furious 7 is absolutely amazing. There isn’t a single action sequence in this film that doesn’t work. I am quite frankly amazed by that. The actors completely sell it as well. I am sure Vin Diesel would have an awesome career as a professional wrestler were he not an action star.
Where the film really suffers is in its lack of a clear villain. Jason Statham, who is awesome in everything, is not given enough screen time to be the kind of villain the movie needs him to be. Things start well enough, with Statham assaulting an entire hospital to get to his brother and promise revenge, but Statham really ends up as more a nuisance throughout the film and not much else. Djimon Hounsou plays a secondary villain, but his screen time is even less so than Statham’s, and there’s no real motivation behind the character other than a misguided sense of revenge. The villains serve the plot well enough, but they could have been so much more. Maybe I just wanted more Jason Statham on screen at all times (this is an acceptable request).
As a troubled production, it was entirely possible for Furious 7 to come out a complete mess. No one could have blamed this film for being crappy if it had ended up badly. The death of Paul Walker was obviously hard on the production, and especially hard on the actors, who had real chemistry with Walker. But director James Wan (in his first big budget feature) does an admirable job. The film features the best stunt work seen in the franchise to date, and Vin Diesel is the glue that holds the entire production together. I am surprised it ended up being as good as it is considering the circumstances. It is another day one Blu-Ray purchase for me, and even though the franchise is long in the tooth, to be honest I wouldn’t mind another one. I just wish Paul Walker were still around. He’ll be missed*.
The movie ends with a very touching tribute to Paul Walker, featuring a montage of scenes of him throughout his time with the franchise. Diesel gives him a very heartfelt send-off at the very end of the film. It is incredibly touching, sad, and well done. I teared up a bit at the montage and I am glad it was included in the theatrical version of the film. It was an incredibly classy and respectful way to send off Paul Walker.