“Furious 7” goes into high gear

Courtesy of Universal PIctures
Courtesy of Universal PIctures

“Furious 7,” directed by James Wan (The Conjuring), defies the stigma that racing films have to be devoid of heart and sentiment. This film provides ample amounts of style and substance, and pushes the envelope without trying to tackle on too much. Despite all the ostentatious set pieces and special effects, the film always stays human. In its basic form it’s a racing series, but this installment definitely transcends the notion of the “Furious” films lacking conviction and feeling. The film nails everything on all aesthetics, and becomes the standout classic of its own series and genre.

Now before I get to the premise, understand that going into this film I hadn’t seen any of the prior installments, which inhibited my excitement a bit because I wasn’t sure how connected the story would be. After the first 20 minutes or so my fears were quickly put to rest because I realized the story was self-contained and specific to this movie. The characters and plot devices from prior films are typically given flashback sequences interspersed throughout the movie to fill in some blanks newcomers may have. This film is very friendly to people who have just started to follow the “Furious” series.

The movie starts in the distant future from “Fast & Furious 6,” and you see all of the crew from the Toretto gang returning to normal civilian life. But despite this, we see from character interaction that none of them are inherently happy. Each all have baggage from their last adventure that will make a return in some fashion. Suddenly, the brother of the antagonist from the last film, Deckard Shaw, begins to wage a war due to the permanent crippling of his brother by the Furious gang. He begins to attack the crew in places of sentimental value, such as hospitals, and even attempting to level a home with a bomb to send out the message that he’s serious. This volatile action ends up pushing the crew to come together for one last mission together.

The acting of the film is spectacular. Vin Diesel, despite playing meathead Dominic, gives a praiseworthy performance as he goes through the entire movie with a palpable sense of dread. There’s a certain gravity to his speeches, yells and groans of pain that seem to be the culmination of all of his years in the special forces. His scenes with longtime girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) paint Dominic in a different light and show him as a multifaceted person who can actually let down his guard in front of the one he loves the most. Paul Walker is also worthy of recognition, as he plays Brian O’Conner who, despite his attempt to cling to a domestic life, realizes that the past has unfinished business with him. Having the acting chops to change from loving dad to hardened special forces veteran in a seamless transition speaks volumes to the type of character Walker can embody.

One of the things that struck me as a viewer was how clever the dialogue was. Coming into the movie I expected more wooden dialogue than even termites could stomach. Luckily, writer Chris Morgan brings an ace with him and makes sure all the characters speak with raw passion. The banter between the crew is not only funny, but serves to build character development and move the plot without having to resort to mind-numbing displays of comedy. Using pop culture references taken from movies and everyday slang, Morgan crafts dialogue in an organic fashion. You get to see the layers of the characters through the dialogue, and the relatable factor makes me even more inclined to bet on these characters.

No film has ever done set pieces and action sequences quite like “Furious 7.” One scene in particular has the cars of the “Furious” crew eject from a huge airplane toward the ground to reach a vantage point in the mountains. This zany action makes the film grandiose, but it never ends up being too big for the actors to handle. They provide a level of realism that prevents the film from being too crazy. Another scene has Dominic and Brian jump through three skyscrapers to avoid being caught by the antagonist. While seeing cars break through buildings makes me question the existence of the laws of physics, it is nonetheless a thrilling event and makes for a fun viewing experience.

“Furious 7” is a well-made film. It always stays within the realm of realism, despite the grandiose and larger-than-life action sequences. “Furious 7” isn’t anything profound or innovative, but it nails everything a great film should be. Whenever you leave a movie feeling chills and recalling scenes for pleasure, you know it’s been etched into your memory forever.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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