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Back in 2001, I was a bright eyed college kid in Newark, NJ and all my friends were gear heads. My audio system cost more than the car. We dropped our rides to the floor by cutting suspension springs. Every weekend was spent at Auto Zone buying limo tint, under carriage neon and strobe lights. Pimping our whips in the cheapest way possible was how we rolled.
Along with Smokey and the Bandit, the original Fast and the Furious was our tuning Holy Grail. The story of a group of bad-asses tearing around Los Angeles in beautiful rides was electrifying. But then I lost touch. Graduation meant reality. No more time for fitting three Kickers Comps into the trunk of a Geo Spectrum.
Thanks to good reviews and little else to see, I decided to revisit the word of rubber, rims and high flying theatrics with Furious 7. What I discovered surprised me. When viewed through a critic’s slant, F7 is schlocky eye candy shackled by clichéd dialogue and ridiculous set pieces. But when watched through the eyes of a guy who loves “boom”, it sours on the back of its clichéd dialogue and ridiculous set pieces. What makes it bad, also makes it fun.
While you wouldn’t think the Furious series would have extensive canon, knowing the ongoing storyline is actually important. Thanks to this informative article by our own Ryan Matsunaga, I was able to catch up.
F7 takes place a few months after the events of F6. Dom (Vin Diesel) is trying to help Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) regain her memories, Brian (Paul Walker) has settled into married life and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is busy being…well…Hobbs. But when the brother of the previous movie’s villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) decides to exact revenge, it forces the team from their humble, humdrum lives.
While it’ll never be Oscar wining acting (sorry, Vin), F7’s cast effectively dances the line between taking the script too seriously and embracing the camp. The best connection comes from Diesel and Walker. Together since the original, the two have a brotherly bond that’s easy to feel and connect to. Also, major points for the tasteful way they approached Paul Walker’s real life passing. Very well done.
The rest of the cast plays to type and while they’re entertaining enough, I never got any sense of familial connection. Maybe it’s a byproduct of being out of the franchise for a decade but with a cast together this long, they should feel more like friends than cast mates. Standouts include Tyrese Gibson as a wise cracking car thief and Kurt Russell as a covert ops specialist.
Luckily, I’m well aware people don’t see these films for deep, emotional drama. They come to see cars act like airplanes. In a word, the set pieces in F7 are outstanding. Super cars jump between buildings, roadsters outrun crumbling parking garages and vehicles skydive. Yes. Skydive. It’s all totally ridiculous and totally entertaining.
In his first stint in the director’s chair, Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) perfectly captures the madness. While much of the film is frenetic and fast paced, Wan peppers the picture with chances for the audience to catch their breath. Although a few of the “relax moments” are just opportunities for humor and shots of women in skimpy clothes, that’s what the Furious series is all about. Excess in nearly everything.
And to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Nobody wants to see Vin Diesel suddenly develop a deep character arc. No one is asking for Letty to perform a soliloquy on how tough it is to be a chick in a testosterone filled world. The canon is deep enough to keep it from pure camp and the maddening action delivers at every opportunity. Even if you’re aware these near superhumans could never survive 20% of the beatings they take, it doesn’t matter. Furious 7’s greatest achievement is in its execution. A sharply made, fully aware action flick that takes vehicular mayhem to new heights.
And I’ll be honest. It felt good to take the 22 year old me out for a virtual spin in a tricked out ride.
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