To celebrate the release of Furious 7 this Easter weekend, each night, I’ll watch one Fast & Furious movie and report on my findings. Join me as I follow our valiant illegal drag-racers as they tokyo drift across the various speed bumps and barricades life throws at them. Last night, I completed the set with the final film featuring our hero Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), the brand-new Furious 7. Furious 7 just opened this weekend, making it the first Fast & Furious I experienced on the big screen. As such, I wasn’t table to take notes during the movie, so my recap may be a bit briefer and less detailed than usual (but, really, that’s probably for the best, given how long my synopses were getting). This review is lousy with spoilers, so don’t read it if that matters to you.
The latest in the Fast & Furious franchise opens in the hospital room of Fast & Furious 6′s villain, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). His brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) stands at his bedside, vowing revenge. He leaves the hospital and the camera pans over the destruction the older Shaw brother has wrought during his hospital visit.
Unaware of the course of vengeance Deckard Shaw has embarked upon, the Furious team is getting back to life a quarter-mile at a time. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) attempts to help Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) recover her lost memories by taking her to “Race Wars.” (Remember that unfortunately named desert drag race from the first movie?) In the intervening years, Race Wars has become larger and more Baywatch-esque. We also see Hector (Noel Gugliemi) for the first time since The Fast and the Furious. Letty enters a race and crushes her opponent, then is promptly congratulated by none other than Iggy Azalea (for reasons unknown). Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is adjusting to life as a new father. Instead of a Skyline, he’s driving a minivan and dropping little Jack off at daycare. Brian’s worried wife, Mia (Jordana Brewster) confides in her brother Dominic something Brian told her: he misses the bullets of his former life.
DSS agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is also living a much less exciting life, spending most of his days doing paperwork. He escorts his partner Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) to the door and when he returns to his office, Deckard Shaw is busy extracting the profiles of Dominic’s crew from his computer. Hobbs, realizing who Shaw is, confronts him and a massive fight erupts. Elena returns to help but Shaw detonates a bomb and Hobbs must grab Elena and leap out the window with her in his arms. He lands on a car roof, and while Elena is mostly uninjured, Hobbs is hospitalized.
Dominic searches for Letty and finds her sulking in the graveyard in front of her tombstone, but he’s got a quick fix for that. He whips out a sledgehammer and offers to destroy her gravestone. (She doesn’t think that will help.) While visiting the Toretto homestead at 1327, Mia tells Dominic that she’s pregnant, again, and she again is hesitant to tell Brian. (No word of a lie, a guy a few rows up from up audibly complained, “C’mon. Not again!”) Little Jack is playing with toy cars and Brian reminds him “cars can’t fly.” (Foreshadowing!) Around the same time, Dominic receives a package from Tokyo, then a phone call: it’s Shaw, fresh from killing Han in Tokyo, calling to tell Dominic he’s coming for his crew. Dominic quickly realizes the package from Tokyo is bad news, and he pushes Mia out of the blast radius of the resulting bomb (that mostly destroys his house). Dominic then visits Hobbs in the hospital and he warns him that the person targeting his crew must be Shaw’s brother, Deckard; Deckard is a former special forces assassin who’s gone rogue, and he seems hellbent on revenge. We also learn that Hobbs has a young daughter (who knew?).
Dominic, like Jack Shephard attempted to do with his father on Lost, retrieves Han’s body from Tokyo. There he meets up with Sean Boswell (Lucas Black, reprising his role from Tokyo Drift and looking like the oldest high schooler since Luke Perry). Boswell gives Dom some personal items from the crash site, including Letty’s crucifix necklace, which Deckard left at the murder scene. They hold a funeral in Los Angeles, which brings crew members Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) back into our story. While Roman expresses his dismay at all the funerals he’s been attending lately, Dom notices a suspicious car rolling through the cemetery. Dominic hops into his ride and chases the car across the city. Once he corners the car in an underground pathway, Dominic realizes it’s Deckard Shaw in the other vehicle. They drive into each other, full-force, totalling their cars. Dominic and Shaw exit their vehicles, ready to fight. Dom remarks that Shaw reinforced his car’s front-end, which is like “boxing with weighted gloves.” Shaw says that he doesn’t play by rules. Also, he suggests he comes from meaner streets that Dominic Toretto, and I was like, come on. No way a dude from England came from meaner streets than Dominic Toretto!
Shaw pulls a gun on Dominic, and it’s only the arrival of covert-ops soldiers that saves his life. Shaw runs away, and the covert-ops team leader, who will only go by the name of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell!), introduces himself. The government spook tells him he has access to a computer program (God’s Eye) that can help Dominic find Shaw in no time. But he needs Dominic’s help first: a hacker named Ramsey – the creator of this worldwide surveillance system that makes use of all cameras (kind of like The Machine in Person of Interest) has been kidnapped by a deadly mercenary named Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). During this exposition, the government agent offers Dom a Belgian ale, but he remains loyal to Corona. If Dominic and his team bring back Ramsey and the computer program in one piece, this secret government group will help them take down Shaw. Dominic informs the team that they’ll be heading into certain danger once again, and Brian vows to Mia that after this mission, he’ll dedicate himself full-time to being a father. This move is largely motivated by a little pep talk from his best bro Dominic: “The bravest thing you ever did was being a good man to my sister. Being a good father to my nephew.”
The team works with the mysterious government man and his soldiers to figure out a plan to get Ramsey the hacker back. Jakande and his team have taken Ramsey, via mobile convoy, somewhere into the Caucasus Mountains. Roman, tired of his lesser role on the crew, suggests he should be leader. And, accidentally, suggests a location for drop-off in the mountains that’s just so insane, it might work. The crew gets to work modifying their cars because they’re about to be air-dropped into the mountains. The team, each in a separate vehicle, is dropped out of a massive cargo plane, sent hurtling to the ground below. (The Fast & Furious films are now literally recreating Point Break.) As they near the ground, parachutes open and they hit the mountain road running. Well, all of them do, save Roman, who was reluctant to skydive his car and, as a result of his delay, drifts over somewhere into the woods.
Jakande’s convoy of heavily armed vans and one even more heavily armed bus veer along the mountain roads. Dom and Brian’s crew catches up to them and a fierce road battle ensues, during which Tej must protect the rest of the crew via his armoured car, and the team dodges bullets from all the hidden gun turrets on the bus. Eventually, O’Conner leaps into the bus and rescues Ramsey, who is a young woman (played by Nathalie Emmanuel). He basically just throws her onto the hood of Dom’s car and Dom pulls her inside. But things go downhill after that. One of Jakande’s henchmen, Kiet (Tony Jaa!), starts kneeing the stuffing out of Brian, and Shaw arrives out of woods in a Mad Max all-terrain vehicle, ramming into Dom’s car over and over again. The end result of this epic action sequence is that (a) Roman briefly saves the day by appearing out of nowhere to help Dominic as he’s pursued by Shaw, (b) the bus crashes and Brian must run along the length of a bus as it topples off a cliff, then leap onto the spoiler of Letty’s car as she swerves it near the edge of said cliff, and (c) we learn that Dominic is invincible. Surrounded by Jakande’s men (and their cars), he asks Ramsey to put a helmet on, then drives straight off a cliff like Slash in the Guns ‘n’ Roses ”
Following the daring rescue, Ramsey puts her trust in Dom’s team. She’s able to size them up pretty quickly – though Roman insists he’s the “double-alpha” instead of the team’s joker. Ramsey says she sent the flash drive with the God’s Eye program on it to a friend in Abu Dhabi. So our team heads off to the United Arab Emirates. Unfortunately, Ramsey’s friend Safar (Ali Fazal) sold the flash drive to some billionaire who wanted it for his car. (You had one job, Safar!) So, the team must infiltrate the billionaire’s penthouse (where he keeps the car) at the top of one of the Etihad Towers. Luckily, the penthouse is hosting a party the very next night, and Safar can get them in.
During the party, the team does the various things they do best: Tej and Ramsey hack the penthouse’s security, Letty fights her way into the billionaire’s inner sanctum, and Dominic lifts a very expensive car up like The Hulk so Brian can act like a mechanic and check under the car for the flash drive. (Why would it even be there?) Roman, naturally, is creating a distraction by being his loud self. But the billionaire’s people catch on: their head of security, Kara (MMA fighter Ronda Rousey) starts pounding Letty and a brutal fight ensues. Meanwhile, the security gates around the car’s room in the penthouse begin to shut. Also, Shaw arrives and starts shooting up the place. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Dom and Brian get into the car, and drive it out into the penthouse, then punch it right through the window. Despite Brian’s admonitions that cars can’t fly, Dom drives the car through the sky and crashes onto a lower floor on a neighbouring building. Then he does it again!
Meanwhile, Brian finds the flash drive in the dash. (Where I would have looked first.) They discard the car and our team escapes. After reconnecting with Mr. Nobody, Ramsey boots up God’s Eye and they find Shaw has holed up in a remote factory. Dom, Brian, Mr. Nobody, and a small crew of special-ops soldiers attempt to capture Shaw, but they’re ambushed by Jakande and his men. (Shaw and Jakande have joined forces!) Most of the special-ops crew are killed. Kurt Russell is shot a few times, and Brian and Dom are forced to flee, abandoning the tablet that had God’s Eye installed. (Why they felt the need to bring God’s Eye with them to the factory, we’ll never know.) Kurt Russell is injured, but not too badly (bulletproof vest). As an EVAC medical team comes to pick him up in the desert, he warns Brian and Dominic that if Jakande now has the God’s Eye, he’ll use it to hunt them down. Dominic decides to take the battle to Los Angeles for the home court advantage.
The team preps for final battle, souping up cars, sawing off shotguns, and the like. Mia tells Brian about their second forthcoming child, who will be a girl. Dom’s crew then sorts out their plan: Dominic is going to confront Shaw on his own, while Brian and the rest of the crew attempt (with Ramsey’s help) to regain control of God’s Eye. The only problem, they note, is that they need to be within two miles of the God’s Eye to hack it, and Jakande and his men will be eager to kill Ramsey (as the only person who can hack their high-tech toy), so they’ll have to keep her mobile. They compare it to playing a game of hot potato. The night of the attack, three cars are running: Brian and Ramsey, Roman and Tej, and Letty. Dominic, meanwhile, drives the streets on his own, hoping to lure Shaw out of hiding. The plan works. Jakande, from a helicopter above, uses God’s Eye to find Dominic and sends Shaw after him. He then uses God’s Eye to find Ramsey, who is busy hacking into God’s Eye from her laptop.
Dominic and Shaw have a rematch of their head-on collision battle on the rooftop of an abandoned parking garage. Only this time, Dom pops and wheelie and comes crashing down on Shaw’s hood, then unloads his shotgun into the car below. Both men emerge from their busted vehicles – Dom in one of those white ribbed sweaters he likes to get bloody – and engage in more intimate combat. Shaw takes (I think) two spears of metal and Dom takes two socket wrenches and they engage in the most bad-ass sword fight since the sledgehammer battle in Streets of Fire.
Meanwhile, Jakande has sent a predator drone after Ramsey, which means Brian needs to get her out of his car. During some daring car stunt work, she leans out the car window and is pulled into Roman’s passing car by Tej. The hack of God’s Eye is just about complete when Jakande destroys the cell tower she was using, so now Brian needs to manually reroute another nearby tower. He runs into the tower’s building but is promptly attacked by his old friend Kiet, who has clearly been practicing his parkour. Hobbs, still hospitalized, sees Dom’s team in trouble on the local news. The time for recovery is over: he flexes his bicep and breaks his arm cast. Then he downs a few painkillers, loads his weapons., and takes to the streets. The driving team has to make one more trade, moving Ramsey from Roman’s car to Letty’s moments before a predator drone’s missile destroys Roman’s ride. However, the predator drone is still on Letty’s tail, and it’s only when Hobbs, driving a commandeered ambulance, drives off an overpass onto the drone, that Letty and Ramsey escape danger. Meanwhile, after some fierce fighting, Brian shoves Kiet down an elevator shaft and gets his tower online. The hack succeeds. Jakande is not happy with this series of unfortunate events, and starts shouting “What?!” repeatedly like he’s gunning for Li’l Jon’s job.
Jakande and his chopper hover over to the parking garage roof, where Dom and Shaw are still having their knock-down, drag-out fight. Jakande opens fire on both of them and the rooftop begins to cave. Dominic remarks to Shaw, “The thing about street fights … the street always wins.” Then he stomps on the rooftop and Shaw falls to his doom, the victim of yet another California sinkhole. Hobbs, meanwhile, has removed the gun turret from the predator drone and begins to hunt for the helicopter. As he tells Ramsey, “Woman, I am the cavalry.” He starts shooting at the chopper, but soon runs out of bullets. The parking garage’s integrity weakens and Dominic, taking a bag of grenades from Shaw’s car, hops into his dad’s good-old death car, and races away. But the garage is collapsing all around him. He drives up some fallen concrete, sending the car in the air. He just narrowly misses colliding with the helicopter, but manages to toss the bag of grenades on board before crashing to the ground. Hobbs, seeing his opportunity, uses his pistol and shoots the bag of grenades, exploding Jakande’s helicopter and ending the death from above.
The team goes to the crash site, finding Dominic seemingly dead. Brian and Letty desperately try CPR. (I’ll give credit where credit is due: I’m impressed that seven films in, we’ve only once seen a tearful, desperate CPR attempt!) Letty then reveals to Dom’s unconscious body, cradled in her arms, that she remembers everything. The memories came flooding back. And she remembers that she and Dom got married in the Dominican Republic before she was nearly killed. (This is news to the audience, and the rest of Dom’s crew.) We see flashbacks of the simple wedding ceremony, Dominic dressed in his cleanest white tank top for the occasion. Dominic awakes and says, “It’s about time” she remembered. When Letty asks why he never told her they were married, Dom, ever sage, says, “You can’t tell someone they love you.” Too true, Dominic Toretto. Too true.
Following Deckard Shaw’s incarceration, Dominic’s crew, which now includes Ramsey, relax on the beach. The others watch as Brian and Mia play with their son, and take time to reflect on their happiness, realizing Brian will have a better life now that he’s officially retired from all this fastness and furiousness. Dom silently slips away, but Brian catches up to him at a stop sign. As the film shows a kind of best-of reel of Brian O’Conner’s life throughout the Fast & Furious series, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” plays, and Brian and Dom finally say goodbye and veer off in separate directions.
- Make no mistake, Furious 7 ups the ante in nearly every way from previous Fast & Furious movies, making it one the most exciting action movies … maybe ever? I can think of fewer action movies quite so incident-filled. There are at least three extremely impressive and ridiculous action set pieces. You are unlikely to fall asleep during a screening of Furious 7.
- What’s most striking about Furious 7 is the weird meta-textual element of film’s finale. As most people know, series star Paul Walker died after or near the end of the filming on Furious 7. (And, spookily, he died in a high-speed single-vehicle car crash.) The film is dedicated to him, and the post-climactic denouement, complete with moving song and Paul Walker montage, is like a kind of video eulogy to character Brian O’Conner. But the thing is: Brian O’Conner isn’t dead. He’s fine. He is allegedly retired from the racing game, but we viewers have heard that before. So the last five minutes or so of the movie are actually about Walker and Vin Diesel – not about Brian O’Conner. It’s a strange melding of fiction and reality and I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it in any major film. This would be akin to having Brandon Lee walk off into the sunset as Sarah McLachlan plays “I Will Remember You” at the end of The Crow. I’m not saying I didn’t like it. I just thought it was a weird admission for an action film to make: that this is a movie you’re watching, and it’s filled with actors, and those actors sometimes die too young.
- As tragic as Walker’s death is, the appearance of both Jason Statham and Kurt Russell in this movie gave me hope for the future of the Fast & Furious series. Statham is probably best known for his role in the car-based action series, The Transporter. Kurt Russell was Stuntman Mike in Death Proof. Does this mean we can expect other actors famous for car-based roles to appear in future Fast & Furious movies? Is it too much to hope that Ryan Gosling‘s driver shows up in Furious 8?
- This film is directed by James Wan, best known for horror movies like Saw and Insidious. Of the (currently) seven Fast & Furious films, only one was not directed by a director of colour. That’s not an unimpressive feat, as directing is (sadly, still) overwhelmingly a thing mostly white guys do. As I’ve mentioned before, the cast of these action movies is also considerably more diverse than the average action movie. The Hollywood Reporter has noted that 75% of the film’s opening weekend audience in the U.S. was not white. And this makes perfect sense. Audiences are finally seeing people in action films who look like them – or more attractive versions of them – and that, combined with some incredible action, means that not just white audiences are coming out in droves.
- The problem with casting Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey as villains in your movie is that the audience then has to believe that people like Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez could conceivably best them in hand-to-hand combat. Don’t get me wrong, both Walker (R.I.P.) and Rodriguez – I have no doubt – could quickly turn me to a pulp. But when facing Ong-Bak and an MMA champion who takes about 14 seconds to defeat her opponents? I could accept the flying car more.
- This applies to most of the Fast & Furious films, but I’m only bringing it up now: it takes some real confidence to put Tyrese Gibson, one of the most attractive men alive, in your movie and make him the comic relief. I mean, it works. I love Roman Pearce now. He’s hilarious. But that’s a bold choice.
- Given my weak attempt at a Catholic reading of Fast & Furious 6, I was amused that the deadly device our heroes are facing was called God’s Eye. With the seventh film, having faced criminals, law enforcement, and terrorists, the Fast & Furious gang finally take on the Almighty. On Easter weekend, no less.
How fast?: When you drive a car from one building to the next through the air, that car is moving pretty damn fast.
How furious? Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey are hench-villains in this movie. You know it’s gotta’ be furious. So furious they dropped the “fast” from the title. Hobbs busts his cast with sheer muscle, then carries around a chain gun with the ease with which I might carry a bag of groceries. Letty stomps on a guard’s back. Dom saws off the barrels of his shotgun and wields socket wrenches like katana. Is this not furious enough for you?
Favourite car stunt: There are a lot of amazing stunts (or in some cases, probably, special effects) in Furious 7. When you almost forget Brian O’Conner taking a flying leap from a plummeting bus to grab for a car’s spoiler, you know the movie is jam-packed with some solid action. However, my favourite stunt was more of a finesse move: when Brian and Roman swerve their cars just close enough to one another that Ramsey can pass through the window from one car to another. It was a thing of beauty.
Most magical soundtrack cue: The final scene of the movie is scored to a Paul Walker tribute song named “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth. I dare you to fight back the tears.
Unexpected cameo: I guess Iggy Azalea (a.k.a. Igloo Australia) was unexpected, but it was nothing I’d write home about. I was honestly more excited to see faces from the past, like Hector (Noel Gugliemi) and Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), again. It’s the little references to the past, like the mention of those Mia-made sandwiches from The Fast and the Furious, that make the movies work so well as a series.
Bechdel Test Moment: The penthouse’s head of security, Kara, and Letty talk about both (a) whether Letty is charming enough to cause unconsciousness, and (b) how much Kara hates boring parties. I’d say we’ve finally passed the Bechdel Test, boys!
Line of dialogue that makes it clear we’re talking both about a car and the driver’s sexual organ(s): When Brian and Dominic come upon the ridiculous sports car in the Abu Dhabi penthouse, Dom says, “Nothing is sadder than locking a beast in a cage.” And when he drives the car through a wall (and eventually through several buildings), he shouts, “Time to unleash the beast!” I think we know what beast he’s talking about. The cage is definitely a zipper.
Best fashion moment: Nothing beats Roman Pearce looking like James Bond in his white tuxedo.