The Fast and Furious franchise has ebbed and flowed through good and bad iterations but has settled into a highly lucrative franchise for both actors and Universal studios.
The previous film indicated there was plenty more gas in the tank and here we have number 7, with an even bigger budget, stunts and expectations.
Naturally this film has been overshadowed following the unrelated death of one of the main stars during production. Paul Walker arguably the best actor in the cast, as well liked within the series as he was in real life.
All the crew are back, albeit blink and miss him for one character. Toretto (Diesel) and O’Conner (Walker) continue their ongoing bromance, whilst O’Conner finally learns to settle down with his sweetheart Mia (Brewster) and young son. Swapping Bugatti Veyron’s for a people mover is always going to be tough, he also misses the bullets apparently.
New bad kid on the block is Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), providing the catalyst to bring all the action together. Statham does his usual “well hard” shtick, someone so tough he would assassinate himself if paid enough.
Once a movie Mcguffin to chase has been established by shady government type (Kurt Russell), we are into several set pieces in sub Mission Impossible style.
Whether it’s driving cars out of planes, through tall buildings or under articulated trucks, the team are up for the challenge. When the choice is between a Rock (Johnson) and a hard place, they even have that angle covered. If anyone can use a downed drone Gatling gun on a helicopter, irony free Johnson is your man.
Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Letty (Michelle Rodrigez) round out the crew and all get their action beats with Tej also providing the comic relief.
As always the film is about the vehicles, mixing classic American muscle-cars with the latest hyper-cars, scantily clad women and exotic locales including Abu Dhabi. A location that has clearly relaxed it’s local customs, if the portrayed scenes are to be believed.
The story is largely irrelevant but does involve saving a computer hacker, who against movie stereotype is both female and beautiful, providing those remaining single team members with someone to lust over.
The action is almost constant and is a mixture of real and increasingly CGI heavy sequences, none of which even vaguely brush past anything close to reality. Cars flip, crash through skyscrapers, fall from great height, automatic weapons are used like garden hoses and yet mostly people survive or exit with a headache, like a modern A-Team.
Even with belief firmly suspended and brain left in the movie foyer, this makes for truly dumb viewing. The action is disjointed, driving scenes are sped up to look faster than they really are and nothing, not even the live action acting feels remotely real. The characterisation is of the cardboard variety, there is zero depth in any of the scenes (closing sequence not notwithstanding) and overall this is purely an excuse for bonkers set pieces, strung together with occasional wooden dialogue.
Does any of this matter, clearly not.
The series is laser targeted at a particular demographic and with Box Office north of $1.5 billion, yes you read that correctly, director James Wan know how to keep his focus group audiences content.
The ending is handled well and with some poignancy, so at least Walker is movie farewelled with dignity, it is a shame the film is not a better memorial. With a mixture of stand in’s and a small bit of trickery, the film appears finished with Walker very much involved.
If you liked the previous films this is more of the same, albeit of diminishing quality as box office returns increase. Such is the rather depressing world of blockbuster, worldwide release film making.
A definite step down from the previous entry but demonstrates the maxim, “give them what they want”, which might be a good tag-line to the next film, which should be along shortly.