Touching and well-rounded are not adjectives I’d usually use when referring to the Fast & Furious franchise. Fast paced and entertaining on a substance-lacking level, sure. But Fast & Furious 7 feels like something a little more special than the rest. You could say it owes that to the late Paul Walker, one of its leading actors who was killed mid-way through filming. Without doubt this automatically gives the film a more poignant feeling, though for it to be a fitting, tasteful send off was a challenge (not guaranteed to go down well) for this cast and crew. Fast & Furious is, after all, a movie franchise built on the premise of racing fast cars; the very thing that is suspected to have caused Walker’s death in real life.
The film doesn’t try to distance itself from that, nor does it go over the top in making the entire movie a sentimental tribute piece. Rather, that is saved for the ending, along with a few key self-referential lines throughout the story, and had I not seen for myself Vin Diesel (perhaps my least favourite Hollywood actor) provoking such emotion then I may not have been convinced.
Let’s not forget there is the rest of the movie to take into consideration though. This is a Hollywood film that clearly knows its role as an otherwise light-hearted popcorn flick; set pieces are wildly overblown and its main characters are regularly surviving the most dangerous scenarios the scriptwriters could come up with. At one point we see Dwayne Johnson (former professional wrestler The Rock, and this film’s most charismatic actor) drive an ambulance off a bridge, crashing into a high-speeding plane and exploding into a ball of flames, only for him to emerge moments later holding a mini-gun, ready to take on the rest of the merciless thugs hunting down his friends.
Another memorable sequence sees Diesel and Walker’s characters drive a car out of the windows of one skyscraper into another, and then another, before jumping out of the car doors and watching it fall to the ground 200 feet below. Hilariously, the closest thing to a major injury suffered by one of the characters is right at the start of the film, when Dwayne injures his arm in a fight with bad guy Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham. Towards the end we see him rip off his cast ready for action once again.
Statham’s presence actually brings a valuable thrill to the film, beyond the stunts. His character’s set-up is relatively simple; the typical revenge narrative for a fallen relative at the hands of the Fast & Furious crew in a previous film. Beyond that, though, he is something of a ‘spook’ who relentlessly follows the other characters on their various exploits across the world, creating an enthralling cat and mouse chase in which you feel it is Shaw who, despite being outnumbered, always has the tactical advantage.
Damn it, I enjoyed this film. It didn’t take itself too seriously. It had a refreshing, self-referential nature. Most important of all, it felt organic. The surface looks stupid and silly; but this particular movie is about more than that. It feels intelligent, in a Fast & Furious sort of way. Those who come to it expecting another typical instalment in the franchise, rest assured the film does that job immaculately. But it thankfully does not quite stop there, aiming higher than before, and not necessarily in a ‘more explosions’ kind of way.
In the end, one has to admire the over-the-top sleekness of Fast & Furious 7, even if you dislike the philosophy of those who continuously fund the franchise or the filmmakers who continuously come back to it. It ends on two words as the screen fades to black: “For Paul”. Needless to say, his crew – sorry, family – have done him proud in his absence.
8 / 10