D: James Wan. DP: Marc Spicer & Stephen F. Windon. W: Chris Morgan. Starring: Vin Diesel/Paul Walker/Jason Statham/Michelle Rodriquez/Jordana Brewster/Tyrese Gibson/Ludacris/Dwayne Johnson/Kurt Russell/Nathalie Emmanuel/Elsa Pataky/Djimon Hounsou/Lucas Black.
Is there a film more wrought with complications than Furious 7, yet still able to rake in the money it has? Probably not, but this story is not without immense sadness.
The death of actor Paul Walker near the end of 2013 left a community in LA and fans of the franchise reeling, but it also left half of his scenes in Furious 7 not completed. A logistical and emotional problem faced Universal as they decided to continue production and honor Walker, while also working with his brothers to create the rest of his role. For a thread of films founded on loyalty, family, and ultimately brotherhood this decision results in a film that delivers its usual fare, but with more goodbyes.
Malaysian director, James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) stepped into the director’s chair for this installment, which at times feels like the pan-ultimate music video. Yes the action is intense, and there is a lot of it, but the stunts with the cars always win out. This film finds Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) being left by Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) who had returned from the presumed dead, but without her memory. Choosing to ‘find her new me’ she leaves and not long after Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) shows up for some Wreck-it-Ralph vengeance for his brother from the previous film, played by Luke Evans.
Never a franchise for heavy plot development, soon enough the vengeance turns out to be a smaller part of a bigger war, gasp, and a haggard Kurt Russell is introduced to make offers and explain everything. Chris Morgan, the writer of all of the films since the original, The Fast & The Furious, (which was written by Gary Scott Thompson in 2001) weaves large scale plot devices that allow the cast to move around the world. With pumping music, flashy cuts, and even a bikini body shot, Furious 7 leaves nothing unturned (even newcomer Nathalie Emmanuel from Game of Thrones must be initiated into the exploitation). At an exhausting two and a half hours, the film blares though as much material as it can, with as much banter stuffed in as it can muster.
Having not seen every film in the bunch it is still a film easy to follow, the dialogue is so basic and one-linery that one almost images Morgan standing in front of mirror practicing lines in his best Diesel impression. Frankly some of the lines could only be said by a man with that level of husk in his pipes. Yet Furious 7 ultimately feels like one long goodbye. Every time Walker is on the screen it’s poignant, not knowing what scenes he actually shot when. There is a painful phone call between him and his on screen wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) that preambles the ending of the film. Yes it is cheesy, but its clearly not the end people imagined. For that the film is forgiven, they say goodbye with a lot of a heart and grace and one leaves with the good feeling that Walker was really loved and will be missed by those who worked with him for nearly fifteen years.