Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
When I sat down in the cinema to watch Tokyo Drift, I was pretty certain it would be the last time that The Fast and the Furious would be gracing the big screen. No Paul Walker. No Tyrese. It was only the promise of a Vin Diesel cameo that enticed me in at the time and while the movie itself was a lot better than I’d expected, it seemed like the end of the road for the franchise. Never would I have believed that almost a decade later I’d be off to see the seventh installment, let alone be anticipating it more than any other movie coming out this year…well, apart from Star Wars anyway.
But yes, Dominic Toretto and his posse of lovable rogues are back once again to excite us with insane stunts, cheesy one liners and high octane thrills. This time, Owen Shaw’s menacing older brother, Deckard, is out for revenge and he means business. Chasing Dom’s crew across continents and leaving a trail of chaos and destruction in his wake, there is not a single dull moment during the piece’s rather substantial one hundred and thirty seven minute run time.
Anybody who has been worried that the replacement of mainstay director Justin Lin with horror aficionado James Wan is going to mean less action or a shift in tone can most certainly put their fears to rest. The change in filmmakers has no bearing on this movie’s mayhem. In fact, if anything it actually manages to offer up even more craziness than its predecessors. Screenwriter Chris Morgan continues to outdo himself with each successive script, somehow coming up with ideas to up the ante in the set piece department in progressively more wild and ridiculous ways.
How does one top a tank pulverising cars on a Spanish highway or Vin Diesel and The Rock teaming up to take down a plane you may ask? Well, without giving too much away, allow me to take a deep breath and give you a quick rundown: having vehicles parachute into destructive chases, auto mobile madness in mountain ranges, cars flying between skyscrapers, high speed head on collisions, aerial assaults on downtown Los Angeles and…oh yeah, Jason Statham.
The pace of this picture is absolutely relentless, it doesn’t slow down for a moment. Clocking in past the two hour mark, it may seem daunting, but the amount of spectacle and excitement that’s crammed in ensures that you’ll never be left bored. The climactic sequence alone is worth the price of a ticket, ranking as the best and most adrenaline fuelled finale of the offerings to date. At this point it seems unfathomable to think that the climax of the first film was a high stakes street race between Dom and Brian that was comparatively realistic and simple.
Some may claim that’s it’s all too much and that it’s reached a point where suspension of disbelief has been pushed beyond its limits. I for one though am more than happy to sit back and enjoy whatever they throw at us because for me, it’s about more than the action, it’s about the characters. As entertaining and over the top as the set pieces may be, I get as much as enjoyment out of seeing all of the individuals we’ve come to know and love over the years reunite on screen.
After the original installment I was dying for another adventure with Dominic Toretto. By the time 2 Fast 2 Furious came along that didn’t seem likely to happen, so the fact that Vin Diesel is now back for his fourth full appearance in a row is more than I ever hoped for. The actor is clearly at home in the role of the team’s patriarch by now, exuding machismo, fortitude and charm by the bucket load. The fierce loyalty and dedication with which Diesel endows Dom keeps him compelling throughout.
Everybody is of course aware of Paul Walker’s tragic passing during production which unfortunately means that this is definitely the last time we’ll ever see well meaning ex-cop Brian O’Conner. There are many conflicting reports as to how far into shooting the actor got before his untimely death, but whatever the truth may be, the production team have done an outstanding job of doing justice to his character. If you didn’t know that Walker passed away beforehand, I doubt you’d even realise given how substantial and important his part is here once again.
Michelle Rodriguez gives her best performance yet as Letty. Continuing to develop her arc from where it left off in the previous movie, the actress is given a lot to sink her teeth into this time around. A key component of the story is her relationship with Dom which adds another emotional edge to the proceedings. She has some pulse pounding fight scenes of her own too, getting one up on her fight with Gina Carano from last time out.
In much the same way as when Dom sat the first sequel out, I was disappointed when Roman and Tej didn’t return with Brian for the fourth outing, so to have them back as well is great. Tyrese and Ludacris have excellent chemistry when sharing scenes together, being two of the most likable characters by far. Rome naturally gets all of the funniest lines again, spawning plenty of laugh out loud moments caused by his over-confidence.
Dwayne Johnson also returns to kick ass as DSS Agent Hobbs, while Jordana Brewster is still playing the protective mother as Mia. Both performers are on fine form, but receive substantially less screen time than in past excursions. Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel step into the spotlight in their wake, feeling like a comfortable fit among the established players.
Lovable tough guy Jason Statham is undoubtedly the best new addition though. Taking over as the main antagonist, Statham gives the best villainous performance the franchise has ever seen. Deckard Shaw feels like a very real threat, owed entirely to his actor’s intimidating presence and hard man demeanour. He is a true force to be reckoned with, clashing with our protagonists in some ferocious confrontations.
Fresh faces aside, another of the best things about this movie is the amount of callbacks it features to prior outings. A certain familiar racing event is revisited, while Brian and Mia’s early encounters are referenced during a very poignant exchange. There are also some fun cameos, none more welcome than that of Lucas Black returning at last as Sean Boswell. It’s a pity he doesn’t play a larger part, but at least more tension is added to the narrative by the fact that we can no longer say that Dom is safe because we know he meets Sean at some future point.
While it’s arguable as to whether or not Fast and Furious 7 is the best of the series, it’s certainly one of the most satisfying and action packed additions. With enough extravaganza, humour and emotion to consistently entertain and delight, this latest effort brings the franchise full circle in clever and inventive ways. It’s a real treat for long time fans and should feature enough havoc and commotion for casual movie goers to enjoy as well.
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