I’ve never been a big fan of The Fast and the Furious franchise. In fact, up until recently, I’d only seen the first one, and that was on TV some quiet evening. I don’t remember it very well but for me it’s been my go-to example for movies should, at the very least, be able to achieve in terms of quality. It usually goes something like this: “That movie was terrible–it didn’t even reach The Fast and the Furious‘ level of storytelling and characterization.”
All that to say that what I’ve seen is the epitome of the “enjoyable but not good” type of movie…the sort of film that some may decry is stupid but that fans will insist if anybody criticizes that they’re being too nitpicky because these are entertaining “popcorn” movies and if you insist on anything else you are pretentious idiot who doesn’t know how to enjoy life.
The big star of this whole series is of course Vin Diesel, an guy with a genuinely powerful screen presence and the acting talent to pull off characterizations commensurate with the movies themselves.
But the other star is Paul Walker, who sadly died in an automobile accident during the filming of the most recent project, Furious 7. Since I haven’t seen most of the other films in the series and I barely remember the one that I do, I don’t really know how Furious 7 stacks up in terms of action, stunts, or quick close ups of feet depressing the clutch tightly cut with close ups of hands shifting gears, but where it will always stand out is in its amazing ability to integrate Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor into the movie in a central way, when he had only completed a portion of his scenes.
Of course, you can tell if you are looking for it. There are lots of scenes that Brian is not in where he should be, or in which he is standing off to the side not saying very much. Some of the scenes he does feature in are shot a bit funny, where he’s in shadows or obscured by clever camera angles, with dialogue minimized. And sometimes you can see some suspicious looking CGI of his face in certain critical bits.
But overall, it’s an outstanding achievement, one that you wouldn’t really notice if you were not alert to what to look for. And the ending…the coda at the close of the film is genuinely moving. What a farewell, what a brave and honouring way to say goodbye to a beloved character, and to pay tribute to an actor that was no doubt beloved by the film’s cast and crew as well.
Indeed, if there was an Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Finishing the Film in a Satisfying Way that Gives the Second Lead an Emotionally Satisfying Send-Off Without the Benefit of the Actor Who Played Him, this movie would be a shoe-in.
The rest of the film of course is ridiculous. I mean, it’s fun, but it’s ridiculous. I mean, this is the sort of movie where people drive full-speed into cars or off of cliffs and end up just fine. It’s the sort of movie where if your car gets hit in the rear by a rocket or a bomb, it just makes you go faster.
At one point, when duty and action and violence call, Dwayne Johnson / T he Rock flexes the awesome muscles in his broken arm in order to break off his cast. Meanwhile, all the non-principle character girls wear obscenely-short shorts and dance absurdly provocatively (especially since that bit is in what I’d assume is a conservative Muslim context).
And for most of the movie, Vin Diesel and his gang of just-well-characterized-enough-to-be-interesting friends spends their time working for a shadowy government guy (Kurt Russell), pulling off an crazy rescue operation so that he’ll tell them where to find their hated adversary. This same adversary then constantly shows up all through the rescue operation trying to kill them. So, looking for the guy turns out to not really be that big of a deal–all they really have to do is sit around and wait for him to show up.
So yeah, the movie is bad. But yeah, the movie is pretty fun, if you can look past the exploitative presentation of minor female characters. I did, by exercising my plane’s “fast forward” control on my in-flight entertainment system.