I was seven years old when the first movie in the Fast and Furious franchise released on DVD in 2001. It’s strange to look back on those days with the contemporary franchise in mind. Back then it was just another “car movie”, and albeit it has quite a few clear issues, it was an instant favorite in the eyes of a young pre-teen boy. Today the franchise has grown into a monumental collection of action movies for not only car- and motor-nutters, but everyone around the world. They are, whether or not you like them, iconic movies, but as a result of their own success, it becomes impossible to enter the seventh movie without certain expectations. Luckily, it delivers.
As Fast Five and Furious 6 put the franchise
back on the right track, I managed to rediscover the pre-teen boy from all those years ago within myself. This was action at its best. Fun and explosive, and best of all, it knew what it was and what it needed to be to succeed. Queue Furious 7, and expectations have been sky-high (quite literally) on social medias. Not only because it’s set to continue – and possibly outdo – the crazy action set-pieces from the two previous movies, but also because Jason Statham enters the race in a role that looks to tie all the movies together. However, this is also a sad farewell to Paul Walker, who passed away in 2013. The story was re-written, and production put on hold, but as the movie finally hits theatres around the world this week, it’s as a celebration of Walker. A bitter-sweet goodbye to an actor who has grounded these movies, and the production behind them.
Furious 7 looks to tie a knot in the discontinuous narrative of the franchise, where the fourth, fifth and sixth movies takes place before the third, and it does so in spectacular fashion. The last movie finally showed us who killed Han in Tokyo Drift, and as Furious 7 opens with an introductory scene of the Transporter – Mr. Statham – himself, the stakes are raised higher than they’ve ever been before – which speaks volume considering their previous endeavours. You see, Mr. Statham is angry – he has his reasons to be, but I’ll leave those unspoiled – and he has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career. He intends to use these skills to hunt down and kill our friends, but we all know Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and the rest of the crew won’t go down without a fight.
Thus, we have a cat-and-mouse game on our hands, where Mr. Statham is chasing Dom and the gang around the world. From high mountainsides in Russia, to the high-roller suites of the Middle East, and of course, the always reliable Los Angeles. All these locations are just used as an excuse to showcase some extreme stunts and action set-pieces, but nobody should present that as a negative. No, the scenes in the mountainsides are maybe my favorite of the entire franchise, and the scene they follow, really sets the tone for whats to come. Cars being dropped out of airplanes. Armoured vehicular combat with deadly drops at each side, and high-speed chases through thick forests makes for an intense act. It’s of course over-the-top, nonsensical action, but that is exactly why Fast Five and Furious 6 worked as well as they did, and Furious 7 continues this tradition.
The stunts are bigger, the CGI better, and the over-all stakes feel higher and more real, which in turn makes every scene more visceral and breathtaking. It’s pure fun. However, as it says its farewell to Paul Walker, there is a more mature and honest tone to the entire movie. The speeches about family are written better, mostly because they are based on truths – and not an easy fix to introduce some emotional impact to the movies – but also because it feels more sophisticated and believable. The final few minutes are full of warmth and love, and would suit as a perfect bookend to the series. This isn’t the case however, as more movies are on their way, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.
Furious 7 has finally mastered the Furious-formula, and is in my opinion the best in the series. The action set-pieces are bigger, badder and better – but unlike so many sequel, this actually works – and the sentimental scenes actually work well. Sadly, the story as a narrative doesn’t make much sense and could have been handled better, but I don’t think many people are watching these movies for their stories. No, these movies are about love and family, in the midst of heists, car chases, shootouts with police, super-soldiers, maniacal villains and much more, and here, it succeeds.