Gentlemen, start your engines; again! Gear-heads are celebrating the seventh in a line of wildly successful auto-centric speed-fests. “Fast and Furious” was never meant to be much more than a diversion for a very select audience. This originally small-budget flick has evolved into a set of fuel-injected, multi-cultural, friendship-driven blockbusters.
Nobody could have envisioned this small-time venture with no star power to make much of a profit. However, it set box office records, launched a stream of sequels and created legitimate superstars. It may be blasphemous to say, but this series is now on par with “Mission Impossible,” “James Bond” or even the “Marvel” superhero series.
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker attract much of the same audiences, as well as an entirely new set of fans, previously unreached by the more traditional franchises. Just when you suspect this vehicle might be sputtering or leaking oil, it continues to accelerate at full throttle while somehow getting even better mileage than a Prius.
Horror film director James Wan (“The Conjuring”) takes over the driver’s seat from Justin Lin. Drafting on the winning formula, Wan adds enough camber to the alignment to keep us on edge. From the starting line, the action red-lines without missing a shift. Jason Statham enters as ex black ops agent Deckard Shaw. This transporter vows vengeance for brother Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), the international terrorist defeated last chapter.
As Shaw begins a reign of terror against Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), they gain unexpected assistance from mysterious para-military leader, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). Mr. Nobody needs Dom’s team to rescue computer hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) from Somalian terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).
Oh, the plot isn’t all that important, but returning writer Chris Morgan is dialed in to these thrill-seekers. Sure, the absurd storyline generates some oversteer, but the audience came prepared to suspend a level of reality in order to satisfy their need for speed. We also enjoy almost any excuse to visit London, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi and Azerbaijan.
With all the thrilling and cartoonish car chases, even through a cemetery and downtown Los Angeles, as well as mano-a-mano fights (even between women), some of the best scenes are the quieter emotional moments with “mi familia.” Dom exclaims, “This time, it ain’t just about being fast.” Mr. Nobody notes, “That’s wrong thinking, and I like it!”
Of interest to all, is how the filmmakers address the tragic death of co-star Paul Walker. The simple answer is: beautifully. Walker is given a victory lap befitting the love for him and his character, Brian O’Conner. Filming stopped half way through production. Rewrites and new footage were added, using Walker’s brothers Caleb and Cody for body double and voice-overs. Dom insists, “You’ll always be my brother.”
The ever-growing cast also includes: Michelle Rodriguez as Dom’s honey Letty; Jordana Brewster as Brian’s lovely wife Mia; Tyrese Gibson, as comical hotshot Roman: Ludicris, as techie Tej: Lucas Black returning from “Tokyo Drift” as Sean: and a small cameo from Sung Kang as ultra-cool Han. Also adding girl power are Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot and Ronda Rousey. Finally, singers Iggy Azalea and Romeo Santos offer first time cameos.
“Furious 7” is 137 minutes (longest of the series) and rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem. The cars of this outlandish spectacle are also the stars. In addition to the typical muscle cars, some of the exotics are Maserati, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and a W Motors LykN Hypersport (only seven made).
Hollywood is taking note the stars of this thrill-ride are multi-racial (Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, etc) and the women portray emotionally and physically strong characters. No, they’re not going to change much at this time, but they are taking note. In the meantime, you might say these incredibly talented drivers are a credit to their race.
Ron’s Rating: A- Leigh’s Rating: B+