And so we find ourselves at the dawn of yet another opening weekend for a Fast and Furious franchise selection. Once again the television promotional spots are filled with candy-coated cars, scantily-clad women and scowling men with bronze skin tones. Once again star Vin Diesel is trying to convince the world that this film will do something eye-opening with the cars. Something that the other films have never done before.
They amp you up with the ads, the marketing and the promotional stops on the late night television talk show circuit, but we inevitably are left wanting on some level. It might be the script, it might be the acting, it might be the editing or it just might be the overall quality of the directing. With Fast & Furious 7, the cinematic curmudgeon within us all is bound to find some reason to jeer at this film. Oh how I wished I could surmise this offering in a more positive light. Furious 7 picks up where Tokyo Drift left offHowever, my charter as a journalist is to be honest and that’s exactly what I’m going to be. it’s not long before I realized this film did not give a damn about suspension of disbelief in the slightest.
For this writer, that was solidified from the opening scene when Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother of F6 antagonist Owen Shaw, stood at the bedside of his vanquished younger brother as he clung to life in what appeared to be the ICU unit of a hospital. However, as the camera panned out, we see there are scores of soldiers and police officers lying all over the place.
It gets all the more outrageous as he exits the building and the viewer sees the total ridiculousness that director James Wan was trying to convey as helicopters, police cars and armored personnel carriers lay in smoldering metal piles as the antagonist hoped in his fresh Maserati sports car and sped off. The allusion being that Deckard Shaw took out an entire platoon of heavily-armed military personnel with his bare hands and was unscathed. It was at this point that I began to side eye the screen.
From there we’re taken across the country to California where we’re introduced to the protagonists for the first time. We find Dominic Torreto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) speeding through a desert landscape. To no one’s surprise, they’re on their way to a race in a convoluted attempt at jarring Letty’s memory. From the moment it was revealed that she was having trouble recalling who she was, and her relationship to Torreto, I knew they were going to ride that troupe throughout the film. Sorry, amnesia has to be one of the most worn out plot devices in the history of American cinema.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been a part of the Fast & Furious franchise for several films now and is featured very prominently in many of the promotions leading up the release of Furious 7, but he’s really only in like 4 scenes total. However, when he does appear, he’s kicking ass more likely than not. So, there’s some solace to be had in that, at least.Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been a part of the Fast & Furious franchise for several films now and is featured very prominently in many of the promotions leading up the release of Furious 7, but he’s really only in like 4 scenes total. However, when he does appear, he’s kicking ass more likely than not. So, there’s some solace to be had in that, at least.
Despite the pending danger that Deckard Shaw represents, the crew is doing what they been doing at the beginning of most of the other Fast & Furious films-talking about living a normal life. But an ominous package from Japan sits on Torreto’s front porch as and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) are having a conversation, and brother-in-law Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is tending to his young son strapped into a child seat in the back of a minivan.
The minivan being symbolic of settling down for our hero. However, as anyone could have figured, the package explodes, destroying the Torreto residence. Moments later Dominic’s phone rings. It’s Shaw and he just killed Hiro-but that death actually occurred in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was actually two films ago. However, for the sake of making sure we’re all in tune with the same space time continuum, we felt like we had to throw that in there.
So, what makes a man who wants to settle down with his amnesiac girlfriend or raise his young son jump back into the fray? You kill his friend, blow up his house and threaten to kill everyone he loves.
With all those things checked off the obligatory inspiration list Dom calls the crew together one-more-again.
Now, I’m going to stop being so detailed with plot points and focus some characters. The first characters that come to mind for me, being a Black man, are the frick-and-frack, Mutt-and-Jeff reincarnations Roman and Tej, played by Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. It appears as if their banter was meant to represent the duality of the Black male in America-one being street smart while the other is a computer nerd. However, the worn out banter just comes off as forced, contrived and poorly-written. I could have really done without all of it.
Shot on location in Los Angeles, Japan and in Abu Dhabi, the backdrops are more engaging characters than many of the ones on the screen.
Cameos by Rhonda Rousey and T-Pain were enjoyable but fleeting. Special shout out to Djimon Hounsou for his effective, but far too dramatic portrayal of a blood-thirsty terrorist.
Though the stunts were big, boisterous and rambunctious, they aren’t enough to inspire individuals to rush to the box office in and of themselves. I wanted to like this movie. I really did. Especially because it has Paul Walker in it. I wanted to like the film just to show some love and respect to a man who died prematurely. But doing so simply for the sake of Walker’s memory would be disingenuous. Overall, the Fast & Furious 7 was eye-candy. Good for a few laughs, a few thrills and a few chills, but very little of anything else of substance.
The Shadow League gives Fast & Furious 7 a C-.