Furious 7 (2015) ☆☆☆(3/4) : One last ride, maybe

fastandfurious707“Furious 7” entertains us with what we exactly expect from it – and a bit more than that, I must say. Like the previous films of the Fast and Furious series, it serves us with the series of outrageous vehicle action sequences. Like the better ones among them, it willingly drives so fast and furiously beyond the over-the-top level that there were several times I could not help but smile at its bold, relentless dash into the realm of sheer preposterousness along with a cheerful, irreverent sense of humor to tickle us. Its running time is a little too long, but it is still fun to watch on the whole, and the overall result is more than enough to momentarily overlook one sad, tragic incident hovering over the film.

As some of you know, the series has driven along a long, winding path which deserves to be compared to some of the trickiest drive courses in the world. After the success of “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), the series took a couple of detours through two following sequels “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003) and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006), and then it went back to where it began in “Fast & Furious” (2009), and then it got a major boost through “Fast Five” (2011), a crucial point where it finally found its own winning formula to be utilized again in “Fast & Furious 6” (2013).

“Furious 7” begins around where the previous film ended, so you may need to do some homework before your viewing if you are not very familiar with the series (but, if so, you will probably have no interest in watching it at all from the beginning). After defeating Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his bunch of goons in the previous film, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and their gangs got the full immunity for their criminal deeds in the past thanks to federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), so Dominic and Brian could return to their old neighbourhood in LA for restarting their life. While Dominic tries to rebuild his relationship with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Brian tries to adjust himself to a normal life with Dominic’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and their young son, but it is not easy for a guy like him to live with the slow speed of stable family life, and he does miss speed and action even though the family always comes first for him.

fastandfurious706But then, as shown in the last scene of the previous film, there comes a new big problem for them. Owen’s brother Deckard (Jason Statham), a shadowy ex- government agent who is more dangerous than his brother, is determined to get the revenge for Owen. Hobbs is seriously injured during his brutal confrontation with Deckard, and then Han (Sung Kang), one of Dominic and Brian’s gangs, is killed by Deckard in Tokyo. Dominic also gets a surprise attack when he is with Brian and his family, and it is pretty clear to Dominic and Brian that they must take care of their situation right now. In a scene which somehow reminded me of one certain scene in David Cronenberg’s “Crash” (1996), Dominic and Deckard have a cutthroat showdown with their cars, and you will be surprised to see that they still have enough power and will for getting out of their cars and then being ready for more fight even after what would make any average guy numb or disoriented or unconscious at least for hours (but realism is not the first priority in the Fast and Furious movies, you know).

Anyway, Dominic and his gangs soon encounter Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), a wily secret government agent who also wants to get rid of Deckard. While willing to help them, Mr. Nobody wants them to do something for the US government as a part of the deal. Some international terrorist group led by Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) recently kidnapped some brilliant hacker who developed an ultimate global tracking/surveillance software called “God’s Eye”, and it is Dominic and his gangs’ mission to rescue that hacker in question and retrieve that invaluable (and dangerous) software as soon as possible.

As they hop between various places around the world with Mr. Nobody’s aid as well as Deckard’s occasional ambush, “Furious 7” shifts its gear into spy action thriller mode. At one point, Dominic and his gangs must infiltrate into a vault guarded with heavy security while disguising themselves as the guests invited to a big, glossy party held at the top of one of the skyscrapers in Abu Dahbi, and their slick teamwork under risky circumstance is not so far from “Mission: Impossible” (1996) and its sequels.

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Of course, the movie is mainly about the spectacular action sequences featuring those fancy, speedy vehicles to be driven by our tough boys and girls. Although it is quite apparent to us that most of these action sequences depend on a lot of CGI effects and we do not feel any serious sense of danger, the movie gleefully goes on full speed for more outrageous sights to behold, and there are many entertainingly preposterous moments in the film such as when one character somehow manages to hang onto a vehicle driven at high speed amidst lots of bullets and bumps on the road – or that insane moment when a sports car is driven and fallen through several buildings one by one in the middle of air.

The director James Wan, who took the baton from Justin Lin, did a competent job here in this film. While Wan has been mainly known for horror films such as “Saw” (2004), “Insidious” (2010), and “The Conjuring” (2013), he also directed revenge action film “Death Sentence” (2007), and “Furious 7” shows his deft handling of big action scenes. Although the editing and the cinematography are a little too kinetic from time to time, the action scenes are usually accompanied with clear flow and direction even at their most frantic points, and we also get a number of effective physical fight scenes when the characters in the movie have to use their bodies instead of their vehicles.

The main cast members effortlessly fill their respective roles with the convincing sense of rapport they have maintained for years outside and inside the screen; not only they know and understand their characters well to the core, but also they clearly enjoy working with each other. While Vin Diesel and Paul Walker function as the solid center as usual, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris give us some good laughs during their comic moments, and Dwayne Johnson relishes his own moment with gusto around the bombastic climax unfolded in the middle of the downtown area of LA. Michelle Rodriguez brings enough spunk into her character although her character’s personal trouble is the least compelling element in the film, and the same thing can be said about Nathalie Emmanuel, who gives us a nice impression of smart, resourceful woman while looking as sexy as demanded (how the camera looks at female bodies in the film is pretty close to Michael Bay’s films, by the way). While Djimon Hounsou is wasted in his bland, thankless villain role, Tony Jaa functions as one of Jakande’s henchmen, and Jason Statham is suitably cast as your typical hardcore villain. In case of Kurt Russell, he enjoys every minute of his appearance, and the way his scene-stealing performance flips between humor and toughness is simply a delight to watch.

fastandfurious705As the final scene poignantly reminds us, “Furious 7” is the last movie of Paul Walker, who died because of an unfortunate car accident in late 2013. While the production process was delayed as a result, Walker’s performance was completed through CGI and body doubles (Walker’s two brothers Caleb and Cody participated in the production as his stand-ins), and the end result shows no visible sign of awkwardness although you can often sense where they tried to hide CGI and body doubles as much as possible.

Making a sincere, respectful farewell to one of its stars, “Furious 7” works well as a solid blockbuster action film. I was mildly entertained by the early films of the Fast and Furious series, but I was rather impressed by how this long series went further during recent years, and I must say I came to have some grudging admiration for its enduring, or endearing, quantity/quality control. The movie drives well, and it will be probably remembered well as the final film of a good actor who left us too early.

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