Film review: FAST AND FURIOUS 7, from ‘Built For Speed’

The Fast and the Furious films have always been ludicrous but the latest instalment Furious 7 is as implausible and ridiculous as a Michael Bay film. Never have so many bad guys with machine guns shot so inaccurately, never have so many people survived savage beatings, back-breaking falls, missile attacks and car wrecks that would pulverise a normal human being.  Detachment from reality won’t bother the franchise faithful, though, as this film has exactly what they want: car chases, violent action, sexploitation and auto destruction aplenty.

The film takes off from Fast and Furious 6’s epilogue which established former SAS killing-machine Deckard (Jason Statham) as the brooding villain hell bent on punishing Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew of indestructible petrol heads for his brother’s death. Toretto and the Furious crew’s battle with Statham leads into a convoluted and mostly nonsensical Mission Impossible-style  plot involving a shadowy secret government operative (Kurt Russell), a computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) who of course looks like a supermodel and a high-tech surveillance device that can track just about anyone on the planet.

Fretting over plot coherence is a lost cause, though, as this film, even more than the others in the series, is about the pornography of destruction; those who crave relentless shootings, bashings and explosions will spoil their trousers over this one.  Australian director James Wan just about turns this film into a parody as cars are driven through skyscrapers, into helicopters and off cliffs – all without the driver receiving do much as a scratch – but he adds enough genuine crunch to the action scenes to make them exciting even thrilling. That’s despite the fact that the fights, shoot-outs and car crashes are mostly bloodless.  The many fight scenes are reasonably well staged even if they suffer the wobble-cam curse.  A highlight is the cameo from UFC star Rhonda Rousey who displays some of her elite judo technique in a superbly bruising encounter with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). 

Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez once again attempt to give the film some shred of adult drama through their fraught relationship. Unfortunately, their supposedly romantic dialogue is hilariously cheesy and flashbacks to the their wedding, which looks like something out of an early 90’s Guns and Roses video and feature Diesel in a muscle top, will have viewers convulsing with laughter.  The only time the film succeeds in being serious is in its touching heart-felt tribute to the late Paul Walker.

Diesel grins, grimaces and grumbles through this film just as he did in the earlier instalments but he has an endearing fatherly quality amid his ersatz family of car thieves that makes the Toretto character tolerable. For the most part the crew do their usual shtick with Tyrese Gibson as the neurotic Roman and rapper Ludacris as the laid-back tech wiz Tej providing their well-worn comedy relief.  The two main female characters Lettie and the hacker Ramsey are tough and smart respectively but elsewhere women are seen little more than sex objects.  Half the film is like a Girls Gone Wild video with women paraded in front of the camera in bikinis with the trashiest and least politically aware brand of hip hop pummelling audience ears.

The person who seems to thrive in this sort of movie is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who, despite going AWOL for the middle part of the film, just about steals the show.  As CIA agent and oiled-up body builder Hobbs, he approaches the film with a wink, a sly grin, boundless enthusiasm and hilariously unassailable confidence in Americans’ right to demolish anyone in their path. A scene in which he casually strolls through LA with a humungous machine gun is both a parody and celebration of the ‘might is right’, shoot first ‘don’t bother with the questions’ mentality that Arnie extolled in movies for decades.

Furious 7 is an utterly preposterous piece of cinema and an insult to progressive political movements of the last 50 years.  It’s essentially the mind of a video game and energy drink-addicted teenager splattered all over the big screen.  Still, the juvenile glee with which it celebrates wanton destruction and stuffs political correctness into the toilet will prove a God-send for the fans and may be a guilty pleasure for some of the usual detractors.

Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): James Wan.

Release date: 2nd April 2015.

Running time: 137 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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