They stepped out of their – ‘let’s-race-fast-cars-and-also-have-some-sort-of-crime-element-on-the-side’ formula and become a series of heist films populated by a hip, hot young-to-young-ish cast of recognisable stars pulling off daring-yet almost-within-the-realm-of-possibility heists involving in equal parts awesome, practical, physical stunts and a generous dollop of CGI ridiculousness. You’ve come for Fast & Furious 7 (or, the more elegant Furious 7 in the States – why can’t they trust us with a truncated title??).
You’re expecting more ridiculous stunts, more saccharine sentimentality. What no one was expecting was the tragic death of featured player Paul Walker. Furious 7 has become an epitaph, a tombstone in motion, for its erstwhile star. The script was re-jigged, the story reformed in the wake of his untimely passing. What we are left with is a passable action film, and as far as a tribute to one of its highest-billed names goes – a fitting tribute.
There’s no getting around the fact that the story, structure and semblance of the film was lost to the gone-too-soon handicap that was the death of Paul Walker. What may have been the plan before his passing is knowledge only to those involved, and the gods. What we have instead is a bittersweet reunion; a good portion of Walker’s scenes were completed by body doubles (in most instances, his brothers – 2015 tech implanting his face over the top of their heads). What it comes to is the fact that you can only judge this film in two ways; 1) does it match the excitement of the previous instalments? And 2) does it pay respect and homage to Paul Walker in the necessary way(s)?
Walker died during the creation of this film, in an admittedly ironic way (via car accident – for those who want more information, who don’t already know – please don’t make me be the bearer of those gory details). Whatever eventuality the quality of the film ended up in, the real question brought to the fore here is (and its one we never thought would be asked) – can a post-millennial blockbuster expand beyond its consumerist roots to pay tribute to an artist who lost his life participating in the creation of said blockbuster?
The answer is yes.
But the answer to that first question – does Furious 7 match up to the excitement of its predecessors? The answer is yes, just about – the slight hesitation being that incoming director James Wan relies on CGI for uber-ridiculous stunts whereas franchise-reinvigorator Justin Lin resorted to CGI to embellish ridiculous stunts for the most part made physical. There’s also no sense of pacing to the film as each dramatic interlude is merely a prelude to the next, expected action sequence.
As for the second question – this film will punch you in the heart with its ending. Vin Diesel and co have pulled off a gut-wrenching finale for Paul Walker’s character, one which absolutely blindsides you – because you’re thinking that they’re not even going to address the man’s death (and it would be equally respectable for them not to do so, in a way).
To say more about the ending of Furious 7 would be to ruin its impact. To say less would insult the cast and crew’s absolute integrity when tackling this severely-sensitive issue. How do you address a co-worker’s death when the end result is entirely within the public eye? Ask Vin Diesel. Preferably, don’t – the man has bared enough of his soul, his friendships, his relationships, his loves and his losses on camera for a lifetime. And, to be honest – none of those needed to be pluralised.
Review by Dan Woburn
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