Okay, let's address something first.
Our good buddy Vin Diesel boldly predicted that the grief-fueled Furious 7 would snag the Best Picture Award this year.
"Will it?," you ask.
"No, it won't," your friendly internationally recognized yet locally beloved film critic replies.
"In fact," he continues, "it won't even snag a nomination."
Furious 7 is a good film in a decidedly fun but very cinematically average series, a film that works overtime to honor the memory of the late Paul Walker while not losing its own tradition of being an action-packed adventure wrapped around a skewed yet incredibly serious commitment to family and family of choice.
The presence of Paul Walker is felt in nearly every scene in Furious 7, a film that always seems familiar but never really seems tired. With a rumored $250 million production budget, it's pretty clear that director James Wan still takes pretty seriously the Furious series commandment to drive cars really fast and to blow things up really magnificently but it must also be said that he appears to have been the perfect director to add a muscular sentimentality to the motion picture that fits the cast and weaves its way into the fabric of the film without ever really dominating it with the obvious exception of closing scenes that wax eloquently, at least as eloquently as Vin Diesel can wax, and close this particular chapter of the story while quite obviously opening another.
Wan infuses Furious 7 with everything you want from a Furious film, from Dom's (Diesel) always inevitable lectures about family to Ludacris's always merciless yet funny ribbing of Tyrese Gibson. Furious 7 has the formula that has made it one of Hollywood's most enduring and admirable cinematic series of films, yet Wan toys with that formula and still manages to find new ways to pull off things that should seem pretty darn old by now.
Furious 7 kicks off with an obvious clue that we're in for some seriously amped up action when Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) goes whupass on a hospital filled to the brim with soldiers in full gear and civilians standing by, a not so friendly hospital visit inspired by the fact that a certain patient who was left in pretty rough shape in Furious 6 just so happens to also be Shaw's brother.
There's your story for Furious 7 - Shaw wants to kill those who did this to his brother. Dom and his crew want to stop him.
Furious 7 may very well be, and should be, the film that convinces Hollywood that James Wan is more than simply a torture-porn director, though if we're being honest we should have known that all along. The guy who brought us Saw, has always been pretty terrific at embodying his films with a strong sense of humanity that has made them a little more terrifying. This time around, he's leaving the torture behind him in favor of a good ole' fashioned big budget action flick with a good 6-7 major action humongous set pieces that are completely and utterly unbelievable yet so much fun. Wan creates them by weaving together the fun, the fantastic, and the furious in pretty much every scene that unfolds.
Is it cinematic perfection? Nope.
It is, however, exactly what Furious fans want and they will be incredibly happy.
There's no way in hell I'm telling you what happens to Paul Walker here, though I will say that it fits wonderfully with the underlying moral that guides the Furious films (and yes, they have one). My advice? Try not to look for just how Wan and his cast and crew kept Furious 7 going after Walker's tragic death in 2013 in a car accident, but instead surrender yourself to how the spirit of Walker's presence guides the film to an action-packed and poetic finish.
The Furious films have always been a bit fast and friendly with sharing the spotlight amongst its key players, though audiences will likely be excited to see a few newcomers this time around including an always welcome Kurt Russell as a mysterious government agent known only as Mr. Nobody along with an impressive Ronda Rousey and a kick-ass Tony Jaa having a field day with Bryan (Walker). You will, unquestionably, recognize a few other cameos along the way yet they're incorporated into the film without missing a beat.
If you've never been a fan of the Furious films, then I seriously doubt that Furious 7 is going to change your mind. While the film radiates an almost meditative sentimentality rarely found in action films, Furious 7 is still essentially an action-packed and thrilling adventure with a thread of humanity even more deeply inspired than usual and fueled by a cast grieving the loss of one of their own.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic