A masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem
Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Jason Stratham
Directed by James Wan
Fast cars and stunt driving have always been Hollywood staples, but nothing raised need-for-speed thrills to the level of pop-art success like the Fast and Furious franchise, which began almost 15 years ago, spawned six sequels and became a $2 billion-plus property—one of the most lucrative ever—for Universal Studios.
Now, in the seventh installment, Vin Diesel and his virtually indestructible crew of pedal-slammers reunite to save the world from more devious dudes, including a super-bad Brit (Jason Statham) out to avenge the death of his brother from a previous movie. But the plot’s just so much air whizzing by from the dozens of vehicles that zoom, smash and sail across the screen. Don’t worry about following a storyline: Just sit back and marvel at the masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem, a dose of high-octane escapism ramped up to ridiculous, fantastical extremes.
In addition to Diesel (who’s also one of the franchise’s producers), the parade of gear-jamming, road-ripping all-stars includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, rapper-turned-actor Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, all of whom will be very familiar to anyone who buckled up for previous F&F joyrides. Kurt Russell comes aboard as a slick, mysterious quasi-governmental deep-cover operative, Mr. Nobody, who needs Diesel & crew’s help to put the brakes on an international criminal (Djimon Hounsou) who’s kidnapped a mastermind computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanual, who plays Missandei on TV’s Game of Thrones).
Director James Wan, the maestro of horror and suspense whose resume includes Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, creates some absolutely stupefying set pieces, jaw-dropping scenes of stunts and special effects. In one, cars drop from a cargo plane, parachute onto a winding mountain roadway and roar off to assault a heavily armored convoy, leading to a literal cliffhanger—then keep going! Another features the world’s most expensive car racing through—and I do mean through—the world’s tallest building.
And, as usual, the car scenes are broken up by equally impressive fight scenes, magnificent, crashing, smashing slam-o-ramas, choreographed to perfection and shot with inventive, topsy-turvy camera angles that bring you right along for the tosses and tumbles. Mixed martial arts fighting champ Ronda Rousey and Muai Thai warrior Tony Jaa both have bone-crunching cameos.
But for all the speed and spectacle, something else truly makes this one special for Fast and Furious fans—and that’s the final appearance of Paul Walker, one of the series’ top stars, who died (ironically) in a car crash in 2013 while it was still in production. Using footage already shot, digital effects and body doubles as stand-ins, the filmmakers were able to complete all the scenes—and amazingly, most viewers will likely never be able to spot any trickery.
Rather than simply a character, Walker’s role is a cornerstone of the entire movie, which actually becomes a eulogy and a tribute to him. At the end, as Vin Diesel’s character rides, literally, into the sunset and says farewell, literally, to his old friend, a montage of scenes from their previous movies plays. It’s not fast, and certainly not furious, and it may make your eyes misty, for just a sweet moment or two, from something other than gravel dust, exhaust fumes and the head-spinning speed at which the next sequel, number eight, is already being readied to head our way.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine