“I’m here for the team that crippled my brother,” says Deckard Shaw to Luke Hobbs. Hobbs responds, “There was only one man, and he’s standing right here.”
If you had told me nine years ago (after the release of the awful The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) that the Fast and the Furious franchise would still be alive and kicking 10 years later, I would’ve insisted that you tell me what drugs you were on and where I could get some. The first film, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, was actually good but was followed by three lackluster sequels (including 2009’s Fast and Furious, which actually revived the franchise with the return of the core original cast). 2011’s Fast Five and 2013’s Fast and Furious 6 switched gears by actually being good movies (there was a bigger emphasis on strong storytelling and those entries also featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has jokingly earned the nickname “franchise viagara”). I never got to see the first film on the big screen, but I did get to see Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6 during their original theatrical runs. I recently saw Furious 7 on the big screen, and it was an enjoyable experience that exceeded my high expectations.
2015’s Furious 7 picks up where the previous film left off, with Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Connor, and the rest of their friends becoming the targets of Deckard Shaw, who’s seeking revenge for what they did to his younger brother Owen Shaw (the villain of the previous film). The returning cast is in fine form once again: Vin Diesel (as Dom), Paul Walker (as Brian), Michelle Rodriguez (as Letty), Jordana Brewster (as Mia), Dwayne Johnson (as Hobbs), Ludacris (as Tej), Tyrese Gibson (as Roman), Lucas Black (as Sean Boswell), and Elsa Pataky (as Elena). New cast members include Jason Statham (as Deckard Shaw), Kurt Russell (as Mr. Nobody), Nathalie Emmanuel (as Ramsey), Djimon Hounsou (as Jakande), Tony Jaa (as Kiet), and Ronda Rousey (as Kara). The original cast is a joy to watch, especially Diesel and Walker. Tyrese continues to bring the laughs as the source of the film’s (and now the franchise’s) comic relief, Statham is awesome as a revenge-seeking one-man army (even though he’s the bad guy), and Russell gets to be a badass in his supporting role (in one scene, he gets to wear night-vision sunglasses and shoot a bunch of bad guys).
James Wan takes over the directorial duties from Justin Lin (who helmed the previous four films in the franchise), and brings his distinct visual style to mash up with the already-established style of the franchise (the 360-degree side-turning camerawork during some of the action scenes was a nice touch). Chris Morgan’s screenplay strongly emphasizes the theme of family and raises the stakes to an even more personal level, especially for Dom and Brian, while allowing for plenty of crazy action (cars parachuting from a plane!; a beast of a car in a different sequence being driven through three buildings in mid-air!) and plenty of humor. Bill Brzeski’s production design is top-notch (I loved the sets in the Abu Dhabi sequence), as are the costume designs by Sanja Milkovic Hays and the cinematography by Marc Spicer and Stephen F. Windon. The editing by Leigh Folsom Boyd, Dylan Highsmith, Kirk Morri, and Christian Wagner has a good pace and rhythm (certain sequences have music video-style editing, which feel completely appropriate). Brian Tyler (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious, and Fast Five) returns and delivers an action-packed and emotional score.
James Wan’s Furious 7 continues to expand the popularity of The Fast and the Furious franchise with strong storytelling in its last few entries (and now moves past the events of Tokyo Drift) and features thrilling action sequences that get crazier with each sequel. It also serves as a fitting tribute to Paul Walker, who tragically died in late 2013 (most of his scenes had already been shot, and the CGI used for his remaining scenes was very impressive). It is certainly worth checking out, so please do so if you haven’t already.