31st Mar2015

‘Fast and Furious 7′ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson,  Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Lucas Black, Nathalie Emmanuel, Gal Gadot | Written by Chris Morgan | Directed by James Wan

fast-7-cast

Not many film series make it to seven parts. Heck, even Star Wars, which is like the most popular thing ever, is only just about getting there. Even so, I hadn’t seen any of the previous Fast and Furious films before so I took to Twitter to ask if anyone could bring me up to ‘speed’ on the series in 140 characters. My responses were ‘cars go brum and Vin Diesel pouts’ (@Ariellalphabet) and ‘cars happen. They pretend shits serious and not dodgy CGI’ (@Jack1706). Well, cars did indeed happen and Vin Diesel definitely pouted so I thank my followers for that. Helpfully, I wasn’t the only one unaware of what was happening – Michelle Rodriguez’s character had amnesia (and apparently has for a few films now?), which I assumed was a handy device to help newbies along with the perhaps not overly complicated set-up in the first place.

In this instalment, human bicep Vin Diesel and his motoring chums are being attacked by none other than housewife’s favourite all-action thesp, Sir Jason of Statham, who plays the ex-black ops brother of whatever sorry bastard Diesel & Co. tore a new one for in the preceding episode. Given the film’s overriding preoccupation with informing us that Diesel is about FAMILY over all else, it’s a little hard to see why he isn’t more sympathetic towards Statham’s motivations. Instead, the team team up with twinkly-eyed government secret agent Kurt Russell who says if they track down a hacker currently in the custody of a nasty terrorist and who has some really good tracking software, then they are free to use it to turn the tables on Statham and make the hunter become the hunted. Which is all well and good except that Statham keeps popping up to interrupt their convoluted plan to track him down at regular intervals, like a rather more violent version of Gary from the Pokémon games. You kinda feel like shouting at the screen, ‘Vin, pack in the ridiculous plan to find Jason that Jason’s ruining anyway – he’s right there!’

There are a couple of other issues with the film that I’ll get to presently, but I should say before we go any further that I enjoyed the hell out of Fast and Furious 7. I had ludicrous amounts of fun. Sometimes the point of cinema is to tell compelling stories in interesting ways, sometimes it’s to explore intriguing characters through expert portrayals and other times it’s to see what it might look like if five motor cars were dropped out of an aeroplane, sent hurtling towards the ground, parachuting onto a road and intercepting a heavily armed terrorist cavalcade. I’m sorry, sometimes it just is.

The aforementioned stunt is easily the highlight of the film and is genuinely captivating. It’s easy to dismiss fare such as this, but watching it you realise that by god, a hell of a lot of work goes not only into planning, designing and executing these ridiculous set pieces but into making them look really good too. Credit were it’s due to James Wan for helming the thing.

There are a series of other exciting action sequences, some very well choreographed fight scenes (you should expect nothing less from The Stathe) and a knowing sensibility that puts an awful lot of credit in the film’s account. You have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which is never not a good thing, as well as the aforementioned Russell, who looks like he’s having a lot of fun and The Stathe, whom I love dearly. There’s also a really quite touching coda that serves as a well-judged tribute to the late Paul Walker, whose completed scenes are complemented with CGI, archive footage and some stand in work from his brothers. It flirts with mawkishness but ultimately nails it.

My only real niggles were some literally clanging product placements (‘I prefer Corona’, BANG, there’s a bucket of ice cold Coronas!), some glorious smell-the-fart acting from Diesel (watching whatever it is his face is doing as he tries to be ‘emotional’ with Rodriguez prior to the party sequence was unreal) and the film’s two ‘let’s have an ogle at some leggy lovelies’ sequences. I’m not seriously expecting the Fast and Furious films to challenge the archetype of the male gaze or anything (for what it’s worth, the film does pass the Bechdel test), but the scenes do feel rather contractual, as if the filmmakers were thinking they ought to put some T&A in as that’s what’s expected rather than it being an overall part of the aesthetic, which is in some ways more disappointing. And ultimately, though I could be incorrect here, I don’t believe that that amount of female flesh on display is generally considered de rigueur in Abu Dhabi.

In conclusion though it’s a brilliantly entertaining film that does exactly what it says on its tin and then some, completely exceeding my expectations. It’s likely that a lot of people will be snobby about Fast and Furious 7, claiming it’s a leave-your-brain-at-the-door festival of stupid. I disagree; I think it takes smarts to be this brazenly outrageous. This absolutely engages your brain in all its synapse-popping, take-a-look-at-this! glory.

Fast and Furious 7 is released across the UK from April 3rd.

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