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Fast & Furious 7 - Review

Fast & Furious 7

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE Fast and Furious movies have long been considered one of the most ridiculously enjoyable franchises in recent memory. But this seventh instalment – albeit surrounded by the tragedy of co-lead Paul Walker’s death – takes the preposterous to new heights of absurdity even by its own super-sized standards.

That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable as for long periods it is. But come the overblown action climax, Fast & Furious 7 has morphed from a Mission: Improbable style heist flick cum revenge thriller to a superhero smackdown where men and women can bash ten bells out of each other, and buildings can tumble, without barely a scratch on anyone.

It’s here that the movie chokes on its own gas. But that’s not to deny that what comes before is as slick, overblown, knowingly tongue in cheek and audaciously spectacular as we’ve come to expect. Or that the final few scenes are unexpectedly poignant, delivering a tear-inducing finale that offers the late Walker a suitably respectful send-off (and his co-stars and fans the chance to say a heartfelt goodbye).

Picking up in the aftermath of the London-set sixth adventure, the film introduces us to ex-Special Forces assassin Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), whose brother (Luke Evans) lies in hospital after brushing with Toretto’s gang.

Vowing revenge, Shaw travels to Tokyo to take out Han (Sung Kang) before hopping to LA to deliver more punishment to Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew.

Assisting the good guys, meanwhile, is a shadowy government figure named Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell), who will provide them with the means to defeat Shaw so long as they help him retrieve a new surveillance tool, God’s Eye, and its creator (Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey) from the clutches of another ruthless mercenary named Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).

The ensuing adventure takes them to Europe and Abu Dhabi before reaching its climax in a no-holds barred head-to-head on the streets of LA.

Early on, incoming director James Wan clearly has fun emulating the outrageous feats achieved by his predecessor, Justin Lin, in the standard-setting Fast & Furious 5, and its equally massive Fast & Furious 6, with set pieces including a skyfall sequence that effortlessly combines spectacle and humour, as well as a skyscraper based heist involving a car and several buildings.

He also sets up a formidable adversary in Statham’s Shaw (even if the character is, ultimately under-used) as well as an intriguing mystery man in Russell’s Mr Nobody (with the veteran actor clearly relishing the opportunity to play around in such a franchise).

The charisma that has long been a part of keeping this franchise so successful also remains intact, with the various cast members now effortlessly in tune with each other. What’s more, the tragedy surrounding Walker’s death is never far from the memory, whether in the script that frequently references putting family before death-defying adventure, or saying goodbye to fallen comrades. It means that come that final farewell, the film has earned the right to be shamelessly sentimental.

It’s just a shame, therefore, that the overall enjoyment of the film is slightly negated by the decision to keep trying to outdo itself. At two hours and 20 minutes, the film is as indulgent as it is relentless and it can’t help but hit the odd bump.

The finale, though, is symptomatic of what’s wrong with so many blockbuster movies nowadays – not just in the way that it wants to emulate the superhero idea of having unbreakable heroes endlessly go at each other hammer and tongs, but also in the way that it loses any semblance of reality in its all-consuming desire to get bigger and bigger in the carnage it can achieve.

And while very few Fast & Furious films can actually lay claim to being realistic, most operated within the boundaries of the possible. Fast & Furious 7, by the end, is – at best – laughably OTT but – at worst – boringly repetitive and tiresome (even if the Diesel vs Statham dust-up does have its moments).

That being said, for long periods it is a blast and succeeds in ticking most of the right boxes for long-time fans of the series (myself included).

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 137mins
UK Release Date: April 3, 2015