No matter if you are a fan of the series or whether you have never seen any part of the franchise, you are bound to have heard about the upcoming instalment of the ‘Fast and Furious’ saga due to the unfortunate and untimely death of Paul Walker, one of the lead actors in almost all of the films. His death occurred mid way through shooting, which led to a pause in production and a re-write to the existing script. Going against the idea to scrap the project entirely the filmmakers instead decided to make the most recent instalment an homage to their fallen companion with an edition that easily takes the title of Most Explosive in the series.
The first film to be set after the events of ‘The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (A familiar face briefly returns and we all have to pretend that he doesn’t age 9 years in as many seconds), we once again see Dom and his band of lovable ex-criminals team up against an seemingly unbeatable foe. The foe is question is Deckard Shaw, brother of Owen Shaw from the previous film, played by the one and only Jason Statham. Literally only cast due to Vin Diesel asking his fans what they would like to see, Statham’s angry brother is out for revenge and isn’t afraid to kill everyone in his path in order to get it.
That is pretty much the plot. I mean, there is this whole other sub-plot that involves a hacker and a shadowy government agency headed by Kurt Russell’s ‘Mr Nobody’ (which may as well be his audition for Reservoir Dogs only 13 years too late) but to be honest none of that really matters. What you need to know before going in to this film is that it is a completely different animal from the original Fast and Furious films. The antagonist Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in ‘Fast and Furious 6′ summed the franchise up perfectly.
“A street kid, starts out stealing DVD players in East L.A, ends up heisting $100 million in Rio… It’s a good story, isn’t it?
And that is exactly it. The entire franchise summed up. Reality flew out of the window during the opening minutes of the fourth film (It was hanging by a loose thread at that point anyway – the car immobilisers in 2 Fast 2 Furious saw to that) But the thing that makes the fourth film, as well as the following three instalments, as fantastic as they are is because reality has no basis in these films. The franchise has evolved into high octane escapist fun and in that regard it succeeds.
The main difference between ‘Furious 7′ and its predecessors is that it is not directed by Justin Lin. Lin came on board as director of ‘Tokyo Drift’ and stayed up until this most recent instalment. The only reason that he did not sign on for ‘Furious 7′ is that the studio started pre-production of 7 before the post-production of 6 had even finished. Lin, having honed his skills and become a fine director in the last few years, decided to pass on 7 to ensure that the quality of 6 remained intact.
He also later stated “I feel like I’ve done everything that I wanted to do. And I understand. I mean, to walk away from everybody is a tough thing, but I think it’s the right thing to do. You know, as a filmmaker I’ve been developing a lot of other things in the last eight years and it’s time for me to keep growing and try new things, you know? So, it’s just time.” Which, I think you will agree, is completely fair.
The role of director was soon given to James Wan. An odd choice seeing as his previous films consisted mainly of the Horror Genre including Saw, Insidious Part 1 & 2 and The Conjuring. However the decision was a good one. Although he doesn’t have the same furiousness that was present in Lin’s direction, Wan does a good job of mixing over the top action with the character development that we have come to love from the franchise. He does fall short of the mark in places but overall his version is just as entertaining as the previous instalments. Saying that I would have loved to have seen Lin’s take on the film.
As mentioned earlier Paul Walker unfortunately died during filming and rather than write the character out and start again, the filmmakers decided to finish the film using a mixture of CGI, body doubles, voice & scenes from previous films and Paul’s two brothers in order to finish his scenes. The result is almost flawless. In technology terms we are not quite there in completely replicating a person so that the computer graphics are indistinguishable from the real thing (See Tron Legacy), but they came bloody close with this film. At several points you are able to notice but many go under the radar, one example being so well done that I didn’t actually realise until after I got home and researched the scenes.
The one downside the hangs over this film for me is a personal one. Knowing the events of Paul Walkers passing I spent the majority of the film on the edge of my seat, keeping my eyes locked onto the character of Brian in case the next scene was THE scene. Thinking that at any minute they were going to kill the character off. Now having seen the film I know that this was silly of me as it slightly lessoned the impact of everything else that was going on, something that a second viewing is bound to reconcile.
But those who were worried, myself included, that Paul Walker would not get a proper send off had seriously underestimated the love that everyone had for him. The only way to describe the ending is perfect. Vin Diesel offers us a voice over, not seen since the after credit scene in the first film, that is so full of love for his friend that it even has me welling up now as I think back on it. Aside from a touching montage of Paul throughout the series I won’t spoil what happens at the end, but as I said it is a perfect send off to an actor that is going to be very missed by his friends, his fans and most importantly his family.
“The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room, right here, right now. Salud mi Familia.”