If you take a normal sort of movie, pulverize it, strain it, and run it through a centrifuge, then you end up with Furious 7, the latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise.
A movie made this way is no longer just a movie in much the same way uranium — when treated similarly — is no longer simply a metal. It is now a substance capable of leveling a small country.
You cannot judge it, or regulate it, or safely store it the way you might do those same things to, say, Guardians of the Galaxy or The Edge of the Tomorrow or tungsten. You must glimpse it only from a prudent distance, through leaded glasses. You must bury it under a mountain for a thousand years until it is finally safe to have around children and the infirm.
I thought it was pretty good. Yep. Pretty good. Not for a movie — because this isn’t a movie — but for a Fast and Furious film, and one in which cars spend as much time in the air as on the pavement.
This one is completely untethered from the Earth and pretty much anything resembling common sense.
As I just explained to the Supreme Being in a comment thread elsewhere: watching these films after having seen them all is like watching your feeble child learn to walk. Sure, the kid is walking right into walls and falling over all over the place, but lookit his little legs go!
Plus, when I watched Furious 7, my leaded glasses were filled to the brim with Irish whiskey; I was going to a Vin Diesel film and I’m not totally insane.
From The Fast and the Furious, which had a few lunkheads stealing stereos off moving trucks, to 2 Fast 2 Furious where they jumped a car onto a yacht and Tres Fast Tres Furious (or fine, Tokyo Drift) where they played the same race sequence the same way three times and even on into Fast & Furious Four Real You Guys, which made a melange of parts 1-3 and shook it vigorously, this franchise was one reliable thing — a constantly bloating excuse to show cars quickly losing their lot value, shapely derrieres peaking from beneath short skirts, and Vin Diesel attempting to move his mouthparts convincingly.
Then Fast Five came along and suddenly everything was otherwise. Toretto — basically a meat pie with legs — was now, inexplicably, playing George Clooney to an Ocean’s Eleven of heist specialists, never-you-mind that the collected skills of these characters in all of the previous movies could be summarized as ‘they don’t mind totaling your very expensive car.’
Fast & Furious 6 took the revised Fast 5 formula and got that centrifuge spinning. Cars on fire jumped out of planes on fire flying out of moons exploding and The Rock beat Vin Diesel with a monkey wrench, as one is prone to do.
And you ask me, how is Furious 7?
This is an unanswerable question. It is a koan. It is a mystical investigation into the core of life.
You might as well ask:
What is the sound of one Toretto clapping, assuming he’s clapping Jason Statham on the head with a three-foot wrench?
If a Rock falls off an overpass in a stolen ambulance onto a predator drone that’s emerging from a tunnel, and no one is around to hear it — does he make a pithy rejoinder?
I’m serious. This is holy stuff.
When you only saw one set of footprints on the beach, Vin? That’s when Michelle Rodriguez was CARRYING YOU.
Furious 7 squeezes what remains of these characters tighter than the center of a dwarf star. A refraction of what was once recognizable as Toretto clomps around mumbling the same line about family over and over. Paul Walker and his digital substitute grin roguishly. Various other characters exhibit their sole character trait in ways that somehow, if you deliberately fail to think about anything, lead from one action set piece to another.
Explaining the plot of Furious 7 would be like explaining the plot of a deck of cards lit on fire and thrown in the air. There are a few villains, none of whom quite make sense. One — Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw — is awfully mad at the F&F family for not quite killing his baby brother, Owen Shaw, at the end of the last movie.
‘Revenge!’ he slavers with his eyebrows as he blows up the hospital that his brother depends on for medical treatment. ‘Vengeance be mine’ he caterwauls with his scruffy chin as he hacks Hobbs’ super secret computer in his super secret facility with no security guards, before blowing that to shit, so he can obtain the super secret location of Toretto and his gang for his nefarious government-trained-assassin purposes.
Toretto and his gang, of course, are still living in the same two-story L.A. house that they inhabited in The Fast and the Furious oh so many years ago. Dude is probably on Facebook and I can’t imagine him figuring out how to fix his privacy settings. Just look him up.
But noooo…. Instead, Deckard first goes to Japan to kill the life out poor Han, who died back in Tres Fast Tres Furious and whose death still has to be fully retconned into the meat-headed idiocy that underpins all of these films. Why kill Toretto first, anyway? Han was the one who, uh, I don’t even remember.
Whatever. Fine: loop closed. Check.
From Japan, Shaw sends Toretto a package bomb which is all but labeled “I am a bomb. Eat me.”
And so on. There’s a hacker character, Ramsey, whom if you haven’t guessed, will turn out to be a hottt chixxx. Ramsey is played by Nathalie Emmanuel in a bikini. Despite being the super bestest super secretest hacker in the universe, she doesn’t do anything in this film except need saving and look fine when wet.
Ramsey has invented the MacGuffin to end all MacGuffins — basically, it’s an insta-hack dongle that turns the world into your NSA snoop team. She couldn’t possibly build another one, though, or do anything that didn’t involve her in a short skirt. Unfortunately she mailed her world-changing doodad to her friend for safe keeping and he sold it to a Jordanian prince because do shut up Poindexter.
Did I say that I liked Furious 7, yet?
I liked Furious 7. Both my flask and I liked Furious 7 just fine. It was possibly the stupiderest film in this franchise thus far, but if that’s not what you secretly hoped, I pity the fool.
And, speaking of pitying the fool, how long can it be before they get Mr. T into these films? This one shoehorns in Kurt Russell so he can deliver twelve lines, six of which are product placement for brands of beer.
The direction, by James Wan, who previously directed a bunch of torture porn I never bothered to see, is flabby and overly reliant on computerized effects. Fisticuffs are filmed sped up, and they’re as exciting as anything bloodless and indecipherable can be. A couple of the automobile-based action scenes are pretty remarkable — some for their imagination and others for their lack of connection to anything even remotely plausible.
I would not be surprised in the slightest if in the next film Toretto straps the Large Hadron Collider to his muscle car and punches a hole clean through Neptune.
You know, because ‘family.’
Here, he limits himself to parachuting his car out of a plane and to driving in between three buildings, at about 130 stories off the ground.
What do you tip a valet for that?
As you probably know, Paul Walker, who plays Brian O’Conner, died during the filming of Furious 7, in a car accident while off set. Writers Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson did some fast shuffling to find a way to get O’Conner plausibly out of the line-up in this film so they could make Fastidious 8 or whatever they’re going to call the next one.
Much of this extra stuff feels awkward, but heartfelt. They don’t milk the real-life tragedy for on-screen drama, and I suppose that’s for the best. While the cinema critic in me might have wanted to O’Conner to die in some climactic sequence to feed the franchise, the human here remembers that the man really died and all these faces on the screen knew him well.
Paul Walker found his metier and made more of it than anyone would have thought possible. I’m honestly sorry to have seen the last of him.
Plus, injecting even a soupçon of reality into this franchise would be, at this point, an irreversible tragedy.
Furious 7 is precisely what you think it will be. So, I suppose, if you think you’ll like it, you probably will. If you don’t think you’ll like it, that’s only because you haven’t seen all six of the preceding films. You lack the investment in this enfeebled thing that is required for you to sit agape, filled with wonder:
Lookit his little legs go!
I hope they keep making more of these movies just so I can read your reviews of them.
You have no cause to worry. They will make them and I will write them.