If there is one thing notable about Furious 7 it’s of course the passing of its star Paul Walker during filming. In a twisted sense of irony Walker, one of the few characters that were in the series since the beginning, died in a car crash in the midst of filming this movie leaving the rest of the crew not only devastated but with one problem: what to do with the movie? Together with Vin Diesel they were the characters the movie revolved around, each appearing in 5 of the 6 previous movies. The production crew of the movie decided to finish the movie and keeping Walker’s scenes intact by using his brothers as body and voice doubles as well as CGI to film the rest of the scenes making Furious 7 the final role of Walker and his last performance to be the one that made him famous 14 years ago.
There was a time, not so long ago, that I wasn’t that into the Fast & Furious franchise. That changed when the movies became heist movies with Fast Five and added Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the cast as Special Agent Hobbs. Furious 7 looks even more promising on paper with two new additions to the cast: Kurt Russell and Jason Statham. How much more testosterone can a movie like this handle?
Unfortunately, as other ensemble movies have shown, the bigger the cast, the less screen time there is for everybody except for two or three people. Such is also the case with Furious 7 as Diesel and Walker take up most of the screen time while Johnson is hospitalized after a run-in with Deckard Shaw (Statham) who’s the brother of the previous movie’s bad guy: Owen Shaw. With Johnson in the hospital he’s out of the picture until the finale and even newcomer Russell as his replacement only has a few of scenes. Also disappearing in the middle of the movie is Statham as he makes place for yet another bad guy: Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). While Shaw’s function is to provide the movie a revenge plot, Jakande provides it with an object everybody wants and will travel the globe in order to retrieve it. The object in question is the “God’s Eye” which is made by a hacker named Ramsey. It’s a piece of a soft- and hardware that is able to connect to everything with a camera or microphone making it the ultimate surveillance camera and able to find everybody everywhere. “It took us 10 years to find Osama Bin Laden, with God’s eye it would have only took us 10 minutes” he says and promises that Toretto can use God’s Eye to find Shaw and avenge the death of Han whom Shaw apparently killed way back in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift making this the first Fast & Furious movie to not be a prequel to the third movie in the franchise. Because of these two intertwining plots Furious 7 is a 2+ hour movie full of stunts set in exotic locations like Abu Dhabi.
Furious 7 truly feels like a series of vignettes, or video game levels in a way. The script can be clearly cut into several chunks which stand on their own. Especially after the element of God’s Eye is introduced does the movie lose its focus and puts Statham to the background only to have him resurface when the writers felt they forgot about him. This is most obvious when Toretto and his gang are trying to retrieve Ramsey and while they are under heavy fire of Jakande, suddenly Shaw comes in to make the crew’s mission harder only to disappear again after they’ve successfully retrieved Ramsey who turns out to be a smoking hot babe by the way.
In a sub-plot Dom’s girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is dealing with her amnesia. To help her remember where she came from and us where the franchise once begun he takes her to a street race. It’s a small throwback to the Fast & Furious movies of yesteryear and is used as an excuse to throw in some scantily clad women for us to enjoy. These scenes are mostly reserved for dozens of nameless hot girls who probably model swimwear on a daily basis, but Furious 7 even has a lengthy shot of Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) emerging from the sea in a bikini including a gratuitous butt shot.
If you look at the cast-list Furious 7 is even more crowded. The movie does tie in together nicely with the earlier movies due to the guest appearances. There are cameos by Hector (The Fast & The Furious) , Sean (Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift), Owen (Furious 6) and Elena (Fast Five & Furious 6). There are also two notable henchmen in this movie: MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and Asian sensation Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) who are classic action movie henchmen meaning that while they can’t act, their fight scenes are brutal. Also having a pointless cameo is singer Ariane Grande whose butt implants are more convincing than her acting.
After the highly enjoyable Fast Five and Furious 6, I found Furious 7 to be somewhat of a let-down. I can understand why they incorporated the God’s Eye element; to give the movie a grander feel since without it Furious 7 would have just been a simple revenge movie and Shaw would’ve killed more people, because if he didn’t that would have made him seem less skilled as he’s claimed to be. By shifting the focus the makers can have all of the cast members end up in action scenes which they barely come out of alive, but they do come out alive.
This is also the movie’s greatest weakness as there is never any doubt whether someone will survive. This cast already consists of a bunch of cartoon characters who walk away from the nastiest of crashes with just a couple of scratches. Han might have died in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift but in that movie he was just a secondary character who suddenly became part of Dom’s team a movie later. There are plenty of moments when they could have made the choice to kill someone off, but they never do which removes the tension from scenes as the most important members of the team will always survive. Even Paul Walker’s Brian, which would now have been a logical choice to kill off, gets a happy ending even though it’s obvious he never was able to make these scenes himself. While they have done a good job in maintaining the illusion of him being in the movie the entire time, there are certain scenes where it’s pretty obvious they were filmed after his passing; we hear him talking but they show other cast members, he’s shot from a far partially covering his face or they reused old footage or an obvious CG replica.
Furious 7 is an entertaining mindless summer blockbuster movie with some great action scenes, but the ever growing cast does hurt the movie as great characters like Hobbs are reduced to mere cameos and if there is one thing written in stone: it’s that your movie can never have too much of The Rock.