‘I’ ON CULTURE
Who would believe that the seventh movie in a series could still be a lot of fun, forcing you to hang on with non-stop action? Furious 7 manages that. It is not a great movie; it barely qualifies as a good movie. But I actually had more fun than at most of the movies nominated for an Oscar this past year combined.
The series uses a mixed-race group of actors to create the real center of the movie: family. Even through non-stop action scenes and all the wisecracks, many of them very funny, they demonstrate a caring for each other that is rare in this kind of film. It helps make up for the fact that the plot has been used many times before.
The story begins right after the ending of the previous movie. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the older brother of the villain that the gang put into the hospital at the end of the last movie, decides to take vengeance on the whole crew. He invades a federal office, gets the information he needs on the group, and then fights a wild battle with federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), ending it by tossing a bomb. Hobbs is hospitalized but lets Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), the leader of the group, know they are targets.
A bit later, Dom’s brother-in-law Brian (the late Paul Walker) goes through “intense driving stress” going about 2 feet parking an SUV with his baby son aboard. Once back at the house, he, his wife and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), their son and Dom are almost killed by a bomb that destroys their home. The group goes after Shaw but is intercepted by a group of feds led by a shady agent who introduces himself as “Mister Nobody” (Kurt Russell). He wants the family to retrieve a kidnapped hacker who has created a system called “God’s Eye” that will find anyone on earth, and in exchange, he will let the group use the system to find Shaw, and the government will provide a private army to get him.
This leads to the first of several huge staged scenes involving dropping cars by parachute on a winding road in the Caucasus Mountains. The family, which also includes former con man Roman (Tyrese Gibson), tech wizard Tej (Ludacris) and Dom’s wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who was once thought dead and has no memory of her relationship with Dom and still is unaware of the marriage (Dom feels it is wrong to tell someone who they are in love with), manage to land their cars and have a wild chase in which they battle the bad guys and retrieve Ramsey, who turns out to be a gorgeous woman (Nathalie Emmanuel).
Then they have to retrieve the program from the penthouse of a billionaire in Abu Dhabi. This creates another set scene that includes Roman making a fool of himself as a distraction, Letty fighting against a female bodyguard (Ronda Rousey) and a wild scene where a car crashes out of one building, flying through the air into and through a second one and finally going through a third (where Dom and Brian, having retrieved the flash drive during the jump, get out) before it crashes and falls dozens of stories to break up. The final set scene involved the head bandit (Djimon Hounsou) using the computer program in Los Angeles to try to destroy the group.
The acting is good for this type of movie. Diesel is a good action star and even manages to carry out the softer scenes with Letty and Brian. Gibson is a great sport playing the butt of most jokes. Ludacris has really great timing in his underplayed manner. The women are beautiful and tough in smaller roles. The most interesting actor is Walker. He died in the middle of shooting the film in an unrelated accident. Using computer graphics and his two brothers as stand-ins for him, his part was completed and ends with a lovely tribute to him. And, in keeping with the nature of the films, where central characters seem to survive anything, the last we see him, he is with his wife and son, retired from the team.
It is a fun film, not to be confused with a really good one. But I had a great time, and so did the rest of the audience.