Furious 7 proves at least one thing: All it takes is a racing helmet and Vin Diesel to survive a 1,000-foot tumble down a rocky cliff into a tree. The car can be smashed, the doors flung off, but as long as it’s not in flames and you’ve got that helmet on, you’ll be out and ready for the next scene looking like the cover of this month’s GQ.
This seems to be the approach director James Wan has chosen. His characters are not human beings; they are action figures designed specifically to create a lot of havoc and then walk away from it all smiling and winking at the camera. They arrive with little emotional resonance, then spend the rest of the movie jumping, kicking, crashing, dropping, flying, and all sorts of other ridiculous actions. At the end, they nestle on a beach with a line of supercars spread out behind them, and all we can wonder is how any of them still have their licenses.
I admit I write this review somewhat at a disadvantage, having never seen any of the previous six Fast And Furious instalments. But from the word go I realised that the previous six films were not prequels, they were fillers. They contained information that this new film seems to have disregarded entirely. That’s the magic of having such one-dimensional characters: You can drop in on their lives at any time and pick up at once all their conflicts, hopes, and dreams. It’s like a soap opera for men who fantasise about other men.
Sure, there’s the running plot line of Letty Ortiz’s memory loss and her marriage to the hero Dom Toretto (Diesel). And the villain of the film does his nasty villain work because his brother was taken out by the Furious gang in the previous movie. But that’s just satellite information. Furious 7 does us a favour by explaining everything as it happens, so we get the pleasure of realising we wasted our time watching the first six films.
The villain is Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham as a man with an inbuilt GPS tracking system. The story travels from L.A. to Tokyo, to the Caucasus Mountains, to Abu Dhabi, then back to L.A.. At every pitstop, Deckard turns up miraculously for a fight, sometimes with armoured buggies, sometimes with grenade launchers. How does he know where to find them? Did James Wan forget to film his invitations?
No matter. The Furious gang always has an escape route. They think up of some great ones here, best of which involves them skydiving in supercars and parachuting them directly onto a dirt path outlining the ridge of a mountain. I don’t know what chassis the cars were carrying, but the drivers certainly did a good job of steering their wheels in mid-air. The future of car aviation looks bright.
After they successfully land the cars on the road and fight off a hoard of gunmen, they fly to Abu Dhabi, dressed as millionaires, restocked with brand new supercars, and crash the penthouse party of an Arabian prince, whose prized seven-of-a-kind 1.5 million dollar car is stolen by Toretto and his good friend Brian (Paul Walker) and lunged from the window of the skyscraper to the art showroom of another, before speeding out of control and flying out the other end into yet another skyscraper. The camera pulls away from the shattered window where Toretto and Brian stand triumphant, and we feel we’ve just witnessed a grand illusion.
The plot is a real no-brainer but twists and turns as much as it can to seem a bit more well-rounded. Deckard wants revenge on the Furious gang. He scours the world for them. The Furious gang wants to find and stop Deckard. They use a device called God’s Eye to hunt him down. God’s Eye, we learn, can tap into any surveillance device (like a mobile phone camera) and feed the images back to headquarters, creating a visual map that can pinpoint and follow targets. I was hoping to be shown the server room of this technological sensation, which must be vast beyond measure, but the filmmakers forgot to film that too. If only Toretto and Brian and all their friends had learnt tracking from Deckard; they’d find him in no time.
It’s the kind of plot that works without working. You can switch your mind off and think about buying more popcorn and the climax will still make sense. Well, whatever sense it can make. There’s a showdown between Toretto and Deckard that could easily have been solved by a bullet to the head but decides instead to result in a fistfight involving pipes and wrenches, and so many blows to the face I expected their skin to rip off to reveal Adamantium bones. By that point I had had my fill of brawls, crashes, stunts, and so many gratuitous shots of bums and breasts. I just wanted to meet the story.
But there is a crowd for these movies, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. I don’t think I belong to that folk. The girl I watched Furious 7 with said it was so bad it’s good. I can see where she’s coming from. But a spade is still a spade, and Furious 7 is still a movie that’s so bad it’s bad.
Note: The film ends with a heartwarming, profoundly moving tribute to the late Paul Walker, whose many scenes had to be digitally created after the script went through rewrites. I’d like to say it saves the movie from its fate, but it doesn’t. It saves itself, and hopefully the soul of Walker.
Best Moment | Paul Walker’s tribute.
Worst Moment | Everything else.