The Fast & The Furious franchise can really be split into two eras: The Pre-Rock era (1 through 4) and Post-Rock (5-7). The franchise made a notable shift in focus from the street race dominated stories to grander heist action films that happen to feature plenty of cars. This shift revived a franchise that was spinning its wheels, turning it into one of the biggest action franchises around. One that can leap into the ludacris (sorry not sorry) but doing so with a wink and a nudge to the audience. With the untimely death of co-star Paul Walker, there are a lot of eyes on the 7th film in the franchise, curious to see if the series can continue its upswing and send a member of the family off on a high.
It takes all of about ten minutes for the testosterone fuelled series to hit its usual marks. Explosions, bountiful shots of shiny cars in high octane races and slow motion camera crawls across scantily clad women dancing the day away. The crew that survived the events of six and what can now be called an interquel in Tokyo Drift (3rd released in the series) are back and in their usual fine form. The Rock especially seems to channel his wrestling persona like never before on the big screen, and although he’s more of a side character here he’s still loads of fun, as is the rest of the cast. Everyone gets a spotlight moment to look awesome or drop a one liner with a wry smile. It’s worth noting that while Tokyo Drift isn’t required viewing, it will help in understanding one of the earlier scenes in this film, which ties into the conclusion of ‘Drift’ much in the way the conclusion of the 6th film did.
There are a few new characters to care about here. Most notable is film antagonist Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, big brother of 6’s villain. His character is straight to the point bad and believably threatening to the family despite only being one man. The acting works across the board, and while there won’t be any best actor awards here there has been a steady film to film improvement from the cast which helps to legitimise the franchise. With superstar additions of Statham, Tony Jaa and UFC star Ronda Rousey to the lineup we are treated to a lot more fist fights throughout the film, and it feels the director has been watching a bit of The Raid 2 for some camera and choreography tricks (which isn’t a bad thing). They’re fun and over the top like you’d expect, but it is well filmed and never feels too forced.
You have to come into this film, like the others, accepting that the Fast series plays by its own rules when it comes to realism. It is a card carrying member of the ‘Rule Of Cool’ club, and extravagance and spectacle reigns over physics. You’ll know by now if you can suspend your disbelief for this kind of movie, and if you can there are some truly amazing set pieces for you to enjoy. The big ones from the trailer are brilliantly executed and are definite highlights, but the film has a couple of surprises, even if I couldn’t help but roll my eyes on more than a few occasions.
Of course, the focus for many will be on the handling of Paul Walker’s death. Given the nature of the accident (a car crash) I wasn’t sure how they’d handle his send off, especially since the series has jumped around on killing off primary characters and the fact most of the crew can shake off ridiculous collisions like they merely stubbed their toe. I’m glad to say they handled his departure as well as you could hope for. It works with the tone and context of the movie, and the end acts as a tribute to his legacy in the series. I wasn’t the only one as the cinema who got teary eyed at the franchise and Vin Diesel’s sendoff (looking at you random girl who was sitting next to me).
You probably already know if you will see this movie or not. If the previous two movies haven’t won you over this one won’t either. But for fans of the series (especially Post-Rock) you will walk out with a smile on your face. Although there is a somber tone throughout much of the movie, it still manages to maintain its loud and bomastic nature. One liners fly at a rapid pace, as do the car crashes and explosions. It all feels bigger than the previous movies, and there is definitely more at stake. This is Fast and Furious at its most furious, and that equals a great time. Now with future sequels already greenlit the franchise enters its third stage: Post-Walker. The good news is the series is at the top of its game. It may be mindless action and entertainment, and in a year of Star Wars and the Avengers it may still be the most unbelievable film of the year, but it sure does it well.