Following the sudden and tragic death of co-star Paul Walker, the team behind Fast & Furious 7 went back for a series of reshoots in order to pay homage to their friend. The results are surprisingly tasteful and this level of meta-knowledge helps fuel Walker’s ‘last ride’ for the franchise.
Following the exciting culmination of Fast 6, which saw Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Berian O’Connor (Walker) and their crew take down a British ex-special forces Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), they settle in to semi-retirement only to be attacked by his brother Deckerd Shaw (Jason Statham) out for revenge. On the run, and with the help of the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) the gang reunite to take down the vengeful Brit in a chase that leads them into Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi and beyond.
There is something to be said for Fast & Furious phoenix-like rise from the ashes. Following on from the abhorrent third installment Tokyo Drift, it seemed that future films with the name would be consigned to the bargain bin, starring has-beens and never-wheres. But the reuniting of all the original cast in Fast & Furious proved a masterstroke by director Justin Lin and one that has been built upon over time.
New characters like Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs provided extra muscle and over-the-top 80s-style action credentials, while Vin Diesel’s waxing lyrical about ‘family’ before beating someone’s head in with a piece of pipe followed by an over-the-top car stunt have brought fans back each and every time. This is a franchise that knows its audience perfectly and gives them everything they want and Fast & Furious 7 is no exception.
From the blistering opening fight scenes between Johnson and Statham, the film, now under the watchful eye of horror impresario James Wan, wastes no time in getting the crew back behind the wheel of an expensive car and on the road. The dialogue is as cheesy as you would expect with Diesel in particular desperate to prove his ‘dramatic range’ by spouting one-liners every five minutes, while Tyrese Gibson makes quippy jokes and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty bemoans her lack of memory.
It’s by-the-numbers Fast & Furious fare, but that’s exactly what the audience wants. The action is impressive and even breath-taking at times, and you know a franchise is doing well when it can afford to have Rhonda Rousey and Tony Jaa as henchmen. It may seem like a waste of their star power on paper, but the two do not disappoint in their respective fight scenes, and in the end, isn’t that the point?
Something else startling for the franchise is it’s no-nonsense approach to multiculturalism. People are not colours, creeds or genders. They are simply ass-kickers, some are good, some are bad, but everyone is treated a person rather than a stereotype. Sure like a lot of blockbusters there are scantily clad women dancing and flashing some skin, but there’s similar treatment for the men too. When it comes to fighting the women are equally as brutal as the men, if not more so and despite the traditional ideas of family and frienship, Fast & Furious 7 doesn’t care who or what you are. It’s a surprisingly open-minded approach to film-making and something that separates it from say, Michael Bay.
But the real memorable story here is that this is Paul Walker’s final appearance, and it is a surprisingly poignant and classy farewell to the series mainstay. It speaks of the confidence of the franchise that they can dedicate an entire film to the man while delivering on the thrills and spectacle that the fanbase want and I challenge you to not have a lump in your throat come the end.