MOVIE REVIEW: FAST & FURIOUS 7 / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: JAMES WAN / SCREENPLAY: CHRIS MORGAN, GARY SCOTT THOMPSON / STARRING: VIN DIESEL, PAUL WALKER, JASON STATHAM, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, JORDANA BREWSTER, TYRESE GIBSON, LUDACRIS, DWAYNE JOHNSON / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 3RD
The box office juggernaut that is the Fast and Furious series continues to roll on in its seventh iteration, starting as it means to go on with the badass introduction of new antagonist Deckard Shaw (Statham), with a slow reveal of just how much damage this one man can do on a simple hospital visit to his crippled brother (Luke Evans), the villain of the previous film. There's just enough time to catch up with "heroes" Dom (Diesel), his amnesiac lover Letty (Rodriguez), his sister Mia (Brewster) and her husband and ex-cop, ex-FBI agent and now adrenaline junky Brian (the late Paul Walker), techie Tej (Ludacris) and joker Roman (Gibson) before Deckard is hunting them down one by one. If you haven't been paying attention to the series until now, you won't find any helpful primer's here. Characters from previous instalments are introduced with little nor no background details, so if you don't know who Han (Sung Kang), Elena (Elsa Pataky) or Sean (Lukas Black) are, then you're out of luck.
Dom initially goes on the offensive, not the best idea when you are dealing with an international Black Ops bogeyman but when Dom and Shaw square off within the first 30 minutes, it looks like this could be the shortest entry in the series, right up until they are thankfully interrupted by Kurt Russell's "Mr Nobody"; a "ghost" to Shaw's "shadow". He has a MacGuffin and a convoluted plan for Dom and his team to carry out, so they can more easily track down Shaw, despite that fact that he turns up at every step along their globetrotting adventure. To be unkind you could describe this middle section as padding, rounding out the running time between two fat slices of Statham action at the beginning (Statham vs. The Rock) and the end (Statham vs. Diesel), if it all weren't so damned entertaining.
Set piece after set piece is packed full of action, excitement and humour. The target audience won't bat an eye as Dom and co. parachute cars out of planes midflight (as shown in the trailer), follow this up with numerous fender benders both on and off a picturesque mountain road, attempt a daring break-in in Dubai featuring a fantastic scrap with MMA star Ronda Rousey, all accompanied by Dom's apparently one-man mission to prove that cars can, in fact, fly.
The action culminates in a multi-part climax back on the gang's home turf of LA with the main characters splitting up to deal with their own obstacles as part of a larger plan, which, for the most part, does not disappoint. The climax of the Statham versus Diesel duel does fall slightly flat but there are obvious reasons for this once you've seen the film but this is made up for by the comeuppance handed out to Shaw's comrades.
After 7 films, the formula should really be getting stale by now, the filmmakers should have reached a dead end, unable to top their crazy stunts from previous episodes but so far they have done it again and retained the humour and relative smarts that makes the more recent movies such a box office draw. Many may scoff at these films but it takes a clever mind to engineer a large number of action scenes where the heroes very rarely use a gun, and avoid repeating or not living up to the spectacle of the past.
The tragic death of actor Paul Walker is handled sensitively and touchingly and give both the actor and the character he portrayed a fitting send off, without being maudlin. Despite his passing during production, Walker appears in the majority of the film and several action scenes focus entirely on him. The way that his sad exit from the series has been handled is entirely fitting.
For a series that was all about the muscle, it has developed a surprising amount of heart.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10