Review - Furious 7

Furious 7 (2015), PG-13, 137 minutes - It's been fourteen years since 2001's The Fast and the Furious launched what has now become a seven movie strong franchise.  If you had told me at the time that it would grow into what it is today, I would have told you that you were nuts.  The fact that that small action film, equal parts fast cars, crazy action scenes, good looking cast, and outlaw lifestyle has spawned six sequels and morphed into a big budget, action packed, global spy-like force at the box office is truly incredible.

This latest - and possibly last - installment finds Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and their crew trying to track down Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), before he finds them and exacts revenge for his younger brother's death (Fast & Furious 6 villain Owen Shaw).  The plot is actually pretty convoluted, with Dom's crew having to pull off Mission: Impossible-like missions in order to obtain a surveillance program that will allow them to track the elder Shaw when he isn't exactly hiding in the first place.  From a story-telling standpoint, it is probably unnecessary, but at this point in the franchise there's the need to always up the ante so I won't harp on it too much.  

The cast is easily recognizable to anyone who has followed any of the Fast and the Furious films.  The underlying theme of family is apparent on more levels than one, with many characters reprising their roles: Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), and Elsa Pataky (Elena).  Fresh faces to the franchise (other than Statham) include: Kurt Russell (Mr. Nobody), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), Djimon Hounsou (Jakande), Tony Jaa (Kiet) and Ronda Rousey (Kara).  They even reached into the franchise's past and brought back Noel Gugliemi's Hector (The Fast and the Furious), and Lucas Black's Sean Boswell (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), which, along with the mid-credits teaser of Fast & Furious 6 officially connects Tokyo Drift to the rest of the franchise's continuity.

This film gained a ton of publicity last year when Paul Walker tragically passed part way through filming (due to an unrelated car accident), adding to the public's anticipation for it, but the fact of the matter is that from the fourth installment on (2009's Fast & Furious), each franchise entry has made more money at the box office than the one before it.  Considering the fun, summer-time, popcorn, action flick nature of this film and its being Walker's last film, I think that trend will more than likely continue.  There is a very nice, heartfelt voice-over/dedication from Vin Diesel to Paul Walker that also doubles as Dom's words to Brian at the end of the film.

I still remember going to see The Fast and the Furious in 2001 when it came out.  Just weeks after my college graduation, my buddy and I joked at the time that at the age of twenty two we were the oldest people in the theater.  Yesterday as I sat in the theater at the age of thirty six I realized that I was far from the oldest person there.  That just speaks for how far this franchise has come, and (at least partially) why they continue to do better and better at the box office.

Furious 7 is exactly what one would expect from this franchise: a high-octane, over the top, unbelievable action flick with cheesy-yet-entertaining banter, and a tight knit cast of characters.  They might not be great, award worthy films, but The Fast and the Furious franchise has come to signify a fun time at the theater and Furious 7 is no different.  It may only be the beginning of April, but this is the first fun, summer-time film of 2015.












*****SPOILERS*****

- Since Paul Walker passed part way through filming, his remaining scenes were filmed with his brothers Caleb and Cody in his place.  His face was then digitally added by Peter Jackson's Weta Digital.  Scenes were re-written to 'retire' Walker's character as opposed to killing him off. 

- Dom/Diesel's heart-felt send-off to Brian/Walker acts as a great ending if they were to make this the last installment in the franchise.  Only time will tell though, they did leave Deckard Shaw incarcerated, being taunted by Hobbs, and vowing revenge.

- While his part was quite small, I loved that they used Lucas Black's character and Han's (Sung Kang) death to tie Tokyo Drift into the franchise continuity.  Until now it had sort of stood out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the franchise.

- Furious 7 was directed by noted horror directer James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring).  The last four Fast and the Furious installments had been directed by Justin Lin.

- If Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) looks familiar, it may because you recognize her from HBO's Game of Thrones, where she plays Missandei, Daenerys' handmaiden.

- Never lacking in kick-ass women, UFC champion Ronda Rousey joins in on the Fast and the Furious fun with a brutal knock-down, drag out fight scene with Michelle Rodriguez.

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