Go ahead, see the trailer first. Or not. Whatever. Like many, I’ve seen the trailers and a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes of Furious 7 before I went to see it at the theatres. I’ve heard raves, comments and positive reviews, from that surprise SXSW screening to major blogs and those from average joes like me. Having seen the trailers and read reviews, I was ready for what most of them suggests: a relentless adrenaline charged vehicular action flick that will entertain the shit out of you with only one caveat, leave logics outside the door and just go in for a good time, thrills, laughs and even perhaps a bit of a teary eye. Hell, game on.
Once the movie kicks it in high gear, it almost never stops. Sometimes it gets so kinetic up to the point that it seems James Wan directed the whole thing drinking Red Bull mixed with NOS. This is not to say that Furious 7 doesn’t have heart, in fact, it’s the other way around, the franchise have never been this touchy-feely emotional. Part of it perhaps has got something to do with the passing of Paul ‘Brian’ Walker and I am pleased to say it’s all good. Director Wan managed to compose everything in such a rhythm that will have you moving from spectacular action fest to a soapy drama, with sitcom moments in between, rinse, repeat, seamlessly. Safe to say, the chorus of complimenting reviews about Fast & Furious 7 is quite spot on. And the tribute to Paul Walker, is probably the sweetest and most touching I’ve ever saw. Yes, I shed a tear.
There really is no need for another review on James Wan’s take on Dom’s family adventures number seven, not one that echoes the others. I watched the movie with a satisfactory grin, fist pumping in the air, and got a little misty in the eye at least a couple of times. What else can you ask for a popcorn entertainment, right? Yet, I walked out of the theatre feeling something was not quite right. It’s not about the increasingly crazy over-the-top stunts, it’s not about having to do away with logic, those are fine. It’s about identity. Even with numerous nostalgic moments and returning characters, it feels as if it Furious 7 has lost its identity.
As big a Fast & Furious plots gets before this, it’s still grounded. In Furious 7, it took no time to start making me think of Transformers or Diesel’s XXX, and by the third act it got so unrecognizable that I find myself wondering whether I’m watching a Fast and Furious movie, a Mission Impossible sequel or something with the word ‘Marvel’s’ on the title. Sure there’s ol’ Dom, Brian, Letty, Tej and Roman, muscle cars and rice rockets, they don’t change, but what world is this? To go from a very grounded premise of illegal street racing to something that looks like James Wan is auditioning for an Avengers or Transformers sequel, is quite a jump. It also feels like it decided to evolve merely to justify following the basic rule of action franchises: make everything bigger and crazier.
Of course, there is no rule that says that is wrong. The audience is happy! Who says stories of Los Angeles illegal street racers can’t evolve into bigger premises? If the 6th and 7th showed us something, is that Dom and the gang -I mean, family, will only face increasingly epic scenarios lightyears from their roots of living lives “a quarter of a mile at a time”. If the franchise goes on to 10, I won’t be surprised we’ll see Toretto squares off with a boss alien xenomorph. But me, as a fan, hopes it doesn’t go that way. I love the stunts, the gravity defying scenes, I don’t nitpick about logics or plot loopholes, but I do care about the original concept that is The Fast and The Furious. Please keep it close to its roots. To director James Wan, congratulations on pulling off a tough job and giving Brian a more than proper farewell. It’s a hell of an entertaining spectacle. Surely hope the next one will still be (back to being) a Fast & Furious, and not an Avengers or Mission Impossible wannabe.