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Fast & Furious 7 movie review: Paul Walker would be proud

Fast & Furious 7 says goodbye to one of its brightest stars the only way it knows how, with incredible car chases, epic stunts and cheesy one-liners. Ben Griffin was at the UK premier ─ here’s why you should go see it.

Story time

Fast & Furious 7 revolves around one bad guy wanting a surveillance device known as God’s Eye and another known as Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) avenging his older brother ─ the villain from Fast & Furious 6 ─ who was hospitalised by Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O-Conner (the late Paul Walker) and the rest of the crew.

Not that the plot matters much as it has always been secondary to what is a visual spectacle of explosions, high-octane chases, frantic punch-ups. Suffice to say, the Apple has landed very close to the tree, with director Jason Wan clearly aware of what fans love about the movies.

Even so, you still find yourself rooting for Toretto and friends, who find their families being threatened by a stoic, deadly British assassin Shaw who is so cold and ruthless you wonder why he bothers with conversation at all.

Some of the dialogue is laughably cheesy, but the movie is always aware of its stupidity and therefore gets away with it. For instance, one scene sees Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) questioning how a genius hacker – played by Nathalie Emmanuel of Hollyoaks fame – can look so good in a bikini.

Even the acting, which is often needlessly heavy-handed and predictable, comes away relatively unscathed because the on-screen chemistry between the cast goes a long way in giving the film a heart.

Sometimes the stupidity does remove you from the movie. For example, there’s a scene where a drone known as “Predator” and a Hind helicopter are firing missiles and bullets around the streets of downtown Los Angeles for about 15 minutes. Yet somehow the military jets still need another “three minutes” to arrive. It’s arguably as silly as the never-ending runway in the sixth film.

Manly men

In the Fast & Furious 7 (known as Furious 7 in the US) Toretto has had a break down and is seeking emotional help from his friends through a difficult time. Just kidding. As a man who is seen at his own wedding wearing a wife-beater, he has all the emotional depth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Agent Hobbs, played by The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson, is essentially a larger version of Toretto who spends as much time throwing people though glass tables and windows as he does flexing his muscles. O’Conner, meanwhile, manages to tone down the macho with his affection towards his new family.

Even if the film is unapologetically macho, it can still pull the heart strings. Hobbs may be built like a tank, but he’s a good dad. Walker misses a life of “bullets” and finds family life more challenging than his FBI agent days. Toretto makes it clear family matters most all the bloody time.

Subtle plot devices, these are not, but you still find yourself falling for them. The male bravado is the staple of action movies and this is a cast that nails it perfectly. It is all too apparent the cast are actually having fun playing their roles and have genuine chemistry.

Did someone say action?

Fast & Furious has always about the cars and action. Honestly, if you had to down a shot every time a punch was thrown or a gun was fired you would be having your stomach pumped 20 minutes in.

If there’s one thing Fast & Furious does best, it’s the chase scenes. A shift away from its modifying routes has freed up more time for things to be blown up and smashed to bits, with each scene seeing so much carnage it is hard to know where to look.

Cars being dropped out of planes, an attack helicopter lobbing missles at a Nissan GT-R, structures falling over, jumping between skyscrapers ─ the list of epic stunts reads like a monthly shopping list. The stunt teams and the slick camera work give each scene the justice it deserves.

One crash, which involves a bad guy ploughing head first into a fallen down tree, actually made us wince. Another sees Diesel and Deckard play a game of chicken in cars and neither party backs down, resulting in yet more delicious carnage.

Some fans will miss the focus on pimping cars, but Statham in a Jaguar and Diesel in his “10-second” V8 with half the engine hanging out the bonnet does the job of satisfying those who love insanely fast, noisy machines. A star appearance from the US$3.4 million Lykan Hypersport makes up for the lack of R34 Nissan Skylines and Mazda RX-7s.

Even during its most ridiculous moments, the camera work and sheer scale of carnage and resulting debris keeps you glued to the screen. There’s just enough plot and quiet time to allow the action to hit at its hardest.

Jason Statham is badass

Another standout part of Fast & Furious 7 is Statham. Seriously, he hasn’t been this cool since the first Transporter movie and that’s really saying something. Shaw is easily the best villain of all the films and his no-nonsense British accent makes him a worthy foe for Toretto and Hobbs.

The superbly choreographed scene between Shaw and Hobbs early on in the film could easily have been the last fight, such is how gut-wrenchingly painful it looks. Toretto and Shaw’s showdown somehow manages to go one better. Shaw elevates the level of ‘badassery’ to new levels.

The last hoorah

Family has always been an ever-present theme in the movies, but this time it’s having to deal with a loss. “Things are going to be different now,” Roman says in one of the rare moments of reflection and he’s unfortunately right.

It is clear the script has been changed to play tribute to Walker, particularly towards the film’s conclusion where a single moment of CGI hits you as hard as a punch from the Rock. Not even Roman’s comic moments and the unrelenting masculinity is unable to mask the knowledge this was Paul Walker’s last movie.

Many of us petrolheads will probably remember watching the 14-year-old first film and then shudder with embarassment at the thought of adding neons and two gigantic subwoofers to a mk1 Fiat Punto. In the same way we have grown up and matured (ish), so have the films (ish).

The movie wants you to remember Walker for being an extremely likable soul and it does its best to send him out in a role that brought him great fame.

Ignore the plot holes so big you could park in them, Fast & Furious 7 is a film that willingly laughs at its own stupidity and the result is a seriously fun-filled journey. Rest in peace, Paul.


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