“Furious 7” offers more of the same

by Christopher Sanchez

    sanchezch@mnstate.edu

Who would have thought we would get this far? The seventh and (possibly) final installment of the beloved franchise is not showing any signs of slowing down, but seems to be coming to the realization that even the high-octane drag races have to eventually succumb to hard closure.

Nevertheless, there’s still unfinished business to resolve, as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team of hardcore grease monkeys team up for another mission full of sleek, fast cars and outrageous, death-defying stunts easy to eye-roll at. But what else could be expected? Anybody looking for Shakespearian qualities in these action pictures had best venture elsewhere.

The film picks right up from “Fast 6,” as the newest bad guy emerges. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, basically channeling his “Transporter” character) is the vengeful brother of the villain from the last movie. He’s out for blood, with Torreto and Bryan O’Connor (Paul Walker) being his prime targets. Unfortunately, Statham’s character is an expert at going under the radar, so the crew has their work cut out for them. This time Just Lin, known for his horror roots with “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” steps in the director’s chair and acquits himself swiftly in the action genre.

As most people know from the previous films, this one involves the most badass cars and exotic locations in the world. The crew ends up going on a chase from Azerbaijan to Abu Dhabi. The only way these street racers know how to solve their problems is by stealing a work of beauty, which is, as you guessed it, a car.

I could get into plot details of  the film, and point out plot holes galore, but I would be wasting my breath because no one goes to this franchise for plot mechanics, or the acting, for that matter. They just want explosions, babes and cars flying to erratic heights. And boy, do these cars fly high, particularly in one action sequence involving a plane. The film provides just some of the most exhilarating, but also most utterly ridiculous, sequences in the series. But who would want it any different?

What “Furious 7” tries to ultimately come dozwn to is family. Walker’s character is a family man now, and his future prospects of being on the fast streets are slim. However, he doesn’t quite know how to settle into domestic life. His wife in particular wants him to retire. Diesel’s character is dealing with his relationship with Letty (Michele Rodriguez) who is still suffering from amnesia. Their scenes together are sweet reminders these films aren’t quite as brainless as other franchises tend to be (I’m talking to you, “Transformers”).

Fans will turn out for this film for one specific reason: the passing of Paul Walker. He brings the most emotional resonance to the film. Losing Walker in a tragic car accident in 2013 in the middle of filming threw the production for a loop, forced into a delay for rewrites to figure out how to finish the film without it’s star. The best that they could do was have Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, fill in for him and use nifty wizardry to put in Walker’s voice and facial features. For the most part, they were able to seamlessly integrate him into the film without becoming a distraction.

Walker really wasn’t much of an actor. In fact, he didn’t really stretch himself far beyond this series. But he always had a star presence and likeability to him that was undeniable. This is especially prominent at the film’s end when Diesel delivers a tribute to Walker that will no doubt leave viewers with a lump in their throats. The waterworks continue with a brief photomontage of the late star and Diesel from the previous films.

It’s hard to fathom that this franchise has gone on for 15 years now. Whether it continues or not, I’m glad “Furious 7” gave us one last hurrah for someone taken from us too soon.

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