Fast and Furious 7 is of course the seventh installment in a varied franchise which has had it’s up and downs including a sliding scale of quality. The original film was all sorts of fun in that dumb kind of way, but the dumb levels were unbalanced when it came to 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift. It wasn’t until Justin Lin got his legs and figured-out how this franchise could reach a broader audience taking more of an international action edge that things started to take-off.
Instead of focusing on this small group of street racers and their tiny underworld Lin decided to expand their international adventures along with scaling-back the illicit racing scenes which obviously had been having a negative impact on the youth promoting illegal street race culture. Turning them into more international criminals pulling-off heists, and then given a chance to redeem themselves by joining the world of black ops.
Fast 6 ended that entertaining ride with Jason Statham being revealed as the person behind the death of Han setting him up as the villain of this film, at the time it seemed like it would be impossible to top the 6th film.
So is this the case or does Universal have to go back to the drawing board?
First off, I have to say I really enjoyed the film and the addition of director James Wan (Insidious, Saw, The Conjuring) was a smart choice to replace franchise guru Justin Lin. His camera work alone should be commended, the opening fight scene between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham did look like it hurt to shoot those blows setting the tone for the future action in the flick. It sidelines Dwayne in a way that seemed copied from Expendables 3, but we’ll forgive them for that. Wan has an eye for the genre and we hope to see him take-on bigger action films in the future.
I’ll say that the main mission to rescue someone from the clutches of Statham’s Shaw is easily going to be a highlight of the franchise and was all sorts of the dumb/fun we were talking about at the top of the review. Deckard Shaw was a great fit for the franchise which has finally given Statham the kind of exposure we hope translate into more features. Come-on Universal, you know Jason would make an excellent Namor The Sub-Mariner.
Kurt Russell is seemingly channelling Cash from Tango and Cash rather than his iconic Snake Plissken, and it makes his character slightly more fun to watch. He’s a bit a more light-hearted which I wasn’t expecting. I also felt that Ludacris and Tyrese got a bit more to do in the film and their characters are growing on me.
Some of the things that hurt the film in my opinion includes Michelle Rodriguez, the relationship/chemistry between Dom and her feels paper thin throughout the entire franchise. It’s one of the worst aspects of the films and it’s poorly acted melodrama is painful to sit through even more so during the opening act of the film. Think soap opera level cheese with actors best known for running around and driving cars. Yeah, they could do a lot better here and I hope to see this kind of stuff scaled-back, not the kind of opening to a film like this you really want.
Vin Diesel overacts his character Dom into the ground and seems like he could have used help from a more charismatic secondary lead in the film, sidelining Johnson for most of the felt like a huge mistake in retrospect. It would be nice to see Universal hire a full-fledged action star or someone they’d hire for the other side taking a spot right next to Diesel’s Dom. If they pursue this angle of them being a special ops team, they might as well add someone convincing to the group.
Some suggestions include badass-in-a-can Frank Grillo or even Neo/John Wick himself Keanu Reeves.
I wouldn’t be terribly sad that if the studio retired Michelle’s character who worked better as a conflicted villain than someone struggling to find something to do in the film.
That leads me into the use of Ronda Rousey, which I felt was shocking underwhelming and felt they sort of wasted her presence in the film. It would have been a bit better to have her show-up again later in the film, maybe she’ll return in future installments. I did enjoy the fight scene and hope that in the future they treat the cameos a bit better, she was excellent besides the opening line they gave her.
Speaking of fight scenes, I loved the addition of Tony Jaa as he brought it and gave Paul Walker’s Bryan a solid smashing. I think it’s awesome they got to use him a bit more than they did with Ronda, he’s more of how I thought they’d use Ronda in the film but maybe they could have her return. You get the feeling they spend a good chunk of time having Jaa setup his scenes and you can tell the man is a professional action star.
One draw-back of having people like Ronda and Tony in these films glaring points out that most of these actors aren’t convincing in fight scenes when facing legit fighters. Another reason why I think it’s important that new additions to the cast should include actors with a stronger stunt/fight background.
It’s ending is action-packed and finally brought in some “modern warfare” elements I think we haven’t really seen to often in these action films. They even manage to give Paul Walker a respectful and fitting send-off, I’ve heard this has brought some to tears but it wasn’t the case for me. I can see how it could have if I was maybe a bit more invested in the franchise.
The film of course made a ton of money this weekend and will likely overshadow the last one’s box office, don’t let the numbers blind you to a fun film that a lot of studio tentpoles wished they could be. It’s worth checking out if you can turn your brain-off to the plot and just enjoy the highly stylized action sequences.